Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Keeping up with the information flow

I only have about 15 blogs on my bloglines account and of those I probably only read 6 or seven almost every day. Today I was reading Remote Access, one of my regular reads and as always I found myself both encouraged and challenged. Clarence writes aMini-Manifesto for the Web 2.0 Classroom which I think I want to adopt as a kind of mission statement. In the manifesto one thing he says….

“The Gatekeepers are Gone
Giving kids textbooks that are ten years out of date is not only wrong, but it is bordering on negligent. Students can access information online that is racist, hurtful, or perfectly false. They also have the opportunity to post information online and gain an international audience. As one of the grade seven girls in my class told me last year, “you don’t have to be a rich old guy from New York anymore.”

I think he is right on the point but it also raises an issue that has been bothering me. Many people are writing in one form or another that we need to teach the kids to deal with large quantities of information. I agree that this is an essential literacy skill however I am at a loss as to how we do this. I am struggling myself and constantly feel that I am on information overload and that I will never keep up.

Any ideas about how we are going to master and teach this skill? If I am overloaded my teachers are feeling even more so because most are not naturally inclined to the technological world. This issue has been troubling me for a while because it is a skill I also need to teach my staff to help them manage the rapidly changing landscape of education.

Jeff’s recent article in the Techlearning Blog on the stages of the digital immigrant is another important reflection for on going professional development. It helps us identify where we are and where we need to be…. I have left both Clarence’s article and Jeff’s for the faculty meeting today. I will not be there so I will be very interested in hearing about the ensuing discussion.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Alan's Final session

At the final session Alan spoke about important components of leadership for supporting technology integration. He stated that fear of losing control is a greater problem than the technology learning curve. When an adult is invited to do something new the first reaction ( at a brain response level) is fear.

A leader acknowledges and validates fear.
What are the fears and the hopes? Will technology take away social interaction and will students loose social skills or in does it allow for connections across the globe creating empathy…every fear has a correlating hope.

Remember it is not about technology…
It is about critical thinking and communication……

Alan suggests that as one starting point every elementary school should connect with a convalescent home…. Alan’s earlier quote about two culturally diverse schools who connected online also applies here….“We met them on the inside before we met them on the outside”.

Alan also suggests - Get started with podcasts
The place to start is Audacity = free software for audio recording
The teacher does not need to know how to do the recording they just need to know where the opportunity is to make a recording AND then use this as part of creating an audience even if you start with family and friends.

Students developmentally NEED an authentic audience….your school alone is NOT enough…..they need to engage in social discourse. This will provide results because whether it is a video presentation, a podcast or a blog students are more willing to accept criticism from and anonymous teacher rather than the teacher in the room.

Finally videos and video conferencing are other important tools
Video can be broken down one channel at a time to provide feedback….audio only visual only….

Finally with every thing you do there is a time quality balance…you have to decide…do not spend more time if the pay of in quality is not there….

With all this said and done Alan stresses the One requirement for everyone is that ……you will learn how the internet works and teach children how to learn in this media dominated environment. All educators should be users and doers on the internet. In our paper world we all know how to read and create…Today in the digital world we must teach the same literacy skills…how to read the internet and how to create….. critical thinking first and publishing second

An important part of these essential literacy skills is that we must teach students how to deal with the flow of information. An important resources Alan shared with regard to literacy Wayback Machine which allows you to see historical views of a site and compare how a website has changed over time.

In closing Alan asked….Are you teaching your children that money controls the internet? Can you imagine if you did not know the difference between an ad and an article in a magazine?
Then he showed us how key terms are up for sale at Overture

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Alan Continued

Check out this wiki created by John in Bolton England. We talked with him in the seminar via Skype.
Students blogging- Kids had interviewed over skype a buisiness who was out sourcing and then interviewed people in China who were recieving the outsourcing.
This is a more rigorus activity than reading an article and repeating what it says.

Motivate the unmotivated

How do you meet people?

Teaching literature....within the classroom you have a limited perspective...what if you connected with people from South Africa or England...How would the perspective be different?
Type into alta vista "To Kill a Mocking Birg: uk to get the perspective from England

Gave another example of British version regarding orgins of the American Revolution
Then suggest a debate via skype with someone in England...It is about capturing the imagination of the students.
Break time

Live post from Alan November Leadership Conference in Los Angeles

Snipets and notes typed on the fly...
Boomerangs- Liberate them Right now 65% of kids return home between 19 and 28

What does it mean to be globally competitive?
Is there more economic opportunity in India than in the US—the question asked by an immigrant who is moving back ( students can not get into an Indian university because the US standards for Math and science is to low)
China has overtaken the Boston region in developing the upcoming companies

Russia etc recruit elementary teachers with math and science degrees
What are this countries expectations regarding what it means to be educated….

You can get a Stanford degree sitting anywhere in the world
Stanford on line high school 12,000 a year and you will have 3 years of Stanford credit.

17% to offshoring…
70,000 for a programmer in US vs 8,250 in India, China 9,000

When you are desperate you will learn
Should you feel a sense of urgency?

Michigan requires online learning to graduate from high school

Elementary – recruit teachers with math science degrees
HS start requiring online learning

A Whole New Mind- Daniel Pink a very important book.
3 things you need in a technology society
art, music, and social skills
Teach people to be creative and innovative – art and music are the road in to these areas

Think beyond the technology
Globalize the curriculum, create learning communities

Teach students to deal with massive amounts of information ( do not spoon feed small bits of content)
Globalization- teach empathy…think globally they will work in a globally connected world- are you teaching them to understand people across the world… if you only do one thing with internet teach social justice

Alan led a great skype demonstration of building global understanding.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Moodle Blogs- Are they blogs?

Moodle a one stop WEB 2.0 environment or is it? Let me start by saying I think moodle is a great program and I look forward to using it in our school. Martin Dougiamas has done us all a great service with the development of this open source tool. I am however perplexed, confused and a little disappointed by a recent discussion I read on the Moodle Forum. You can read the entire threaded discussion for yourself but I also hope you will weigh in here about your perceptions.

We have been looking at Moodle for about a year and we waited for version 1.6/1.7 to come out before we installed Moodle specifically because we were looking for the blog functionality. Here in lies my consternation. The blog function within Moodle does not allow for comments which to my way of thinking undermines the entire purpose of blogging in Web 2.0. There is much discussion within the forum about blogs vs forums and other moodle class activities. The way I understand the underlying statements almost everything seems to center on interclass conversations or teacher /student conversations. Certainly these have a place. Blogs, however are about global connections, expanding access to “experts”/teachers, forming personal learning networks, and connections….Without that capability, without the possibility of comments they become simply private journals that are publicly published.

“Blogs - finally Moodle has blogs for ongoing personal reflections, viewable by course, by group, by individual etc”…(description on the moodle forum) Is this a fancy personal notebook???

A forum by its very nature is intrinsically different than a blog. A forum tracks one subject. Entries are generally short in length and do not lend themselves to in text links to further information. They do not allow a person to easily track the development of any one individual’s thoughts. There are so many differences it is hard to list them yet it seemed in the Moodle forum that it was suggested they are interchangeable.

What do you think? What are the essential Web 2.0 elements related to blogs? Why/how are they important to learning? Did I miss something important in reading the Moodle forum?

Moodle is great…But is is not a one stop shop and for now we will continue to use Class Blogmiester or Word Press in conjunction with Moodle.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Personal Learning Networks for Every Teacher a Worthy Goal

Life is making it difficult to find time to read and consequently it becomes difficult to blog. This month (16, 17) I will attend a two day conference with Alan November and so I hope I can blog life from there. This weekend I got a little time to catch up with my bloglines account and one of Will’s posts struck a note with me. ( Clearly it did so for many other because there are 45 comments and I did not get a chance to go through them)

Will says…

“We go back and forth in this community about whether teachers who use blogs should blog, or podcast or read RSS feeds. I’ve always hesitated to come down on one side or the other in that debate for a variety of reasons. But it’s become clear to me that the answer has to be yes. If you are an educator, I think you have little choice but to choose option 3 in the Marco Torres mantra: “You can complain, quit or innovate.” I know in many ways it stinks to have to be an educator at a moment in history when things are changing on a glacial scale. But what you signed up for is preparing kids for their futures. You have little choice but to deal.”

Further on he writes

“you have the “greatest library in human history” at your fingertips. You have a billion potential teachers. You have an opportunity to learn in ways that you or I could not even have dreamed of when we were in school. And you have an opportunity to shepherd your students into a much more complex, much messier, and much more profound world of learning in ways that will help prepare them more powerfully for the world they face.”

Will’s words ring true and are a great source of encouragement to me. They have renewed my zeal to continue the project I started back in September. I am struggling with having the staff populate their bloglines accounts and write in their blogs. We started this activity, building Personal Learning Networks, over a month ago but it has not yet taken root. It seems that there is always something that keeps us to busy. Right now it is Report Cards and Parent Teacher Conferences. Because I understand the workload the staff carries I have tried to build time into our scheduled faculty meetings for them to read and blog but alas it has been hard. My hope is that if I can make it a regular part of our agenda it will become a habit and as it bears fruit it will take on a life of its own.

I think maybe Will’s post should be required reading….

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