Thursday, December 13, 2007

No Longer Content to Surf the Top of the Waves


No longer content to surf the tops of the waves of knowledge with our students we have been actively involved in retooling teaching and learning to dig deeper. It is not an easy task, nor is there a one size fits all solution. What I do want to share is some of our recent successes and the tools and teaching that took us there. As we have known all along technology is a tool and not an end and we are just beginning to learn how to choose and use tools to transform common activities into deeper learning experiences. Two tools, which have really affected our teaching and learning, recently are video game simulations and chats.

I have written about our experience with chats as a way to work on group projects on my blog. The gist of our experience was that as the students worked collaboratively with the students in Snow Lake Canada as part of our ThinWall classroom they used IM to plan their projects. The transcripts of these chats, often completed at home. gave us a whole new insight into the students thought processes, much more than one gets walking around a class listening to the groups talking. Because we could see their thought processes we know what skills they need. It is an absolutely incredible moment. Yes, it means we are working hard but the opportunity to give the students the thinking skills, communication skills, planning skills, and talents they will need for ….well for the rest of their lives is an unbeatable experience.

Using video games in class has become another incredible tool for deepening the student thinking and learning. In 6th grade social studies students study ancient civilizations and the formations of cities and societies. In most cases the students read about the various factors that influence the early developments of cities like geography, resources, government, trade etc. They can answer questions for an objective test but they have only "surfed the waves" with most of the information soon forgotten. Like many classrooms, you will sometimes see the students constructing dioramas or models depicting the various places they have studied. But when questioned about the model you find that for the most part there was little real thinking about what they created and it was mostly a fun arts and crafts activity( I remember having students do revolutionary war dioramas and they came in with WWII planes hanging from the top f the shoe box).. However, this year things are different. This year we used looked at several simulations like SimCity, SimSocetiy and finally decided on CivRome, which starts with the early development of city-states as a means to deepen the students understanding about building cities. Suddenly the students were no just reading about the choices others had made but they were planning and making choices. They were divided into teams of four with one student as the geographer, one as the government official, one as a farmer and one as a job specialist based on a web quest on early civilizations. They then moved on to the simulation where they continued work in their teams and dealt with all aspects of early civilizations, where to build, what to build, how to provide food and jobs, where to place roads, how to keep the citizens happy. In just three sessions where they could immediately see the effects of their decisions they had come to a whole new level of understanding. The teacher then had them build models which will soon be up on Voicethread, but this time they had to justify every decision, think through the process and make sure their city was sustainable.. These couple of days of activity was absolutely amazing. It was classroom as studio with students moving from simulation to building and back again. They were adjusting their plans and explaining their decisions and while these students may not remember the name of the early civilizations they have studied but they will understand the various factor that contribute to the development of society and they will understand more deeply the impact of the decisions made by leaders or a government on the people.

So, we are now building a library of simulations. It is one of the tools that works for us in the quest to re-tool teaching and learning to dig deeper but is also part of a whole package of technology tools we now are employing regularly as part of our commitment to do more than "surf the tops of the waves". What is working for you? How are you moving beyond technology or technology sake into new and better ways of learning?

Cross posted to Leader Talk

picture by by mrcthepc

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Instant Messaging for Class Makes Student Thinking Transparent


The ThinWall Classroom which is predicated upon connectedness, networking and learning beyond our class walls changes everything. Over the last few days the students in Snow Lake and Van Nuys began their final projects on The Oustider . They are exploring themes related to the book like teen violence , friendship and death. I have been busy lending support and collaborating with Clarence and Terri as we worked out the details and solved day to day glitches.. I worked with the students in Van Nuys modeling how to develop their topics and teaching about Creative Commons. I have been monitoring the wiki and checking on the students to assure they completed their scheduled chats. It has been an intense time of activity, monitoring and coaching.


Today I had a few moments for reflection and I had a new revelation of just how powerful and exciting this kind of teaching/learning can be. For the first time I realized that we were doing something that we never could have done in a more traditional setting…..we could literally see the students think. When technology allows you to be connected to the students thinking and processing you can guide them to build essential skills in a way that was never possible before.

Here is what I mean. I taught at the Junior High level for many years. I did enumerable group projects which fell under the umbrella of “cooperative learning”. I was careful to make sure that each student had a specific part to complete and that the work was divided between all students. I walked around the room listening in for a minute or two as they planned,(of course while I stood over them they were very productive) I watched them work and I talked about timelines etc. But I am not sure I was really very effective in teaching any of them how to think a project through in a collaborative environment. I am not sure that they really respected one another or in some cases that the kids even listened to each other.

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Now imagine you actually had a transcript of their discussions as we do with their IM chats. I not only get a momentary glimpse of what they do in school but a detailed look at all of their planning, discussion and thinking. If two students are taking over I can intervene right away. The students and I can look at the chat together and talk about how they came across and what would be a better approach and why. If they are not on target we can remediate. If they are having trouble with any part of the process we can see how they are thinking and give guidance.

Because we can see their thought processes we know what skills they need. It is an absolutely incredible moment. Yes, it means we are working hard but the opportunity to give the students the thinking skills, communication skills, planning skills, and talents they will need for ….well for the rest of their lives is an unbeatable experience.

Photo by

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Think aloud- What do I expect from our ThinWall classroom


Working on the "elevator speech" about the Thin Wall Classroom. I just attended a leadership conference and was asked to share about the project with Snow Lake. After I gave a brief overview of what we are doing another principal approached me and asked -"What do you want/expect your eighth graders to gain from this experience? What will they have learned? " It was an important moment reminding me that I need to be clear about the purpose of what at first blush might appear to be just a bunch of cool activities. So now as a think aloud I want to try to flesh out the my answers.

In no particular order :
  • Students will move beyond limits of the classroom and the 8 to 3 learning day -opening up new ways to learn
  • The students will learn how to work in a public space
  • The students will understand the power of connectivity as a tool for learning
  • The student will build learning networks
  • The students will expand their world view
  • The students will demonstrate multiple effective methods of collaboration and communication in the digital world
  • Students will be self-critical of their communication skills
  • Students will be able to track the development of their thinking and reflect on the impact of interaction with others on their thinking process over time
  • Learning will become a process more than a set of facts to be mastered
  • Students will be pushed to think about their learning
Picture : http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=2047686395&size=m
by Tochis
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Friday, October 26, 2007

When we get in the way......

Who has the key?
http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=414993708&size=s by spiralz

What happens when we get out of the way. The ThinWall classroom was using Moodle to create chat groups for the students. Moodle is a great tool and it has served our school well in a variety of circumstances. However in this case the students were finding it cumbersome. For some reason the chats would drop participants or just would not work smoothly. We expect some minor difficulties and we checked settings and tweaked the system but it was beginning to effect the conversation and thus the learning. Clarence suggested we switch to MSN Messenger since his kids all had accounts and then require them to email us transcripts of their chats. Here is where it gets interesting.

I okayed the switch , asked for a code of conduct and directions regarding the transcripts and we went to check with our students to see if the had MSN. Surprisingly only seven did. So now the tech coordinator and myself were considering what we would do. Should the kids set up MSN accounts ? What was involved? Although both he and I had accounts it had been a long time since we set them up so we had to check out what the kids would need to do. The problem here is we had not asked the right questions and we had not listened to the kids. We spent at least 30 minutes working on a solution before we went back and asked the kids what IM they used. It turns out that our kids use Yahoo Messenger. Now what? Someone suggested looking at Meebo which we did... but then I actually talked with the students rather than just getting one reply and running off to find a solution.

As soon as the kids understood the issue that in Snow Lake the kids were using MSN and in LA they were using Yahoo they told us that it was no problem the two platforms could communicate with each other. They knew how to add MSN people to their Yahoo chats...problem solved. Or was it?

I think the hidden problem is that we get in the way. In an effort to be the teacher we do not allow the students to navigate through the tools. We forget to listen and be learners ourselves. It is important that we teach safe and ethical behavior and monitor the way they use the tools as well as helping them see the power the tools have to help them learn. It is good that we show them new things like voicethread and that we make the tools available to them. But we also need to allow them to find solutions and use the tools that work for them. Last night before we even had officially switched from Moodle one of the groups switched on their own and emailed the transcript of their chat to Clarence

In the beginning the students were hesitant they did not know how it would work to learn in a connected network. Some of the tools we pointed them to were new to them . All of what we were doing was a new way to approach school. Now I think they get it. They see the potential and want to move ahead and so we can point out tools and we can guide the learning but we are ready to listen and to let them find the right tool for the job. Hmmm …..if I am not worrying about the tools I can focus on planning the learning.

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Friday, October 12, 2007

This one blew my socks off! What a tool!


Okay maybe I am behind the times but if you have never played with TouchGraph you have to give it a try. My technology coordinator just stumbled on it this afternoon and we have spent the last 30 minutes playing with this tool. The possibilities are limitless but even more to the point it seems to be a POWERFUL tool to help teachers uncover resources and to allow older students to find information and discover the way networks interact. One of my concerns as an administrator has always been supporting the teachers and finding ways of opening up to them all of the resources that are available for their curricular content. One of the stumbling blocks is the vast number of hits you get with a standard Google search and the time consuming activity of refining searches for each component of you lesson. Enter TouchGraph which provides a visual representation of resources networked around topics or URLs.

You absolutely have to try it to understand but the concept is straight forward. You create a visual network which allows you to see related concepts and a whole variety of resources in an incredibly easy to navigate interface. The visual representation is much easier to work with than pages and pages of hits from a google search and it allows you to move into the deep layers very quickly. So for example if you put in "California history" or "Sahara Desert" the program generates a graphic map of the network around these topics showing a wide variety of subtopics and related links. My test search for Sahara desert immediately revealed a whole host of hubs including images, physical characteristics and subtopics like animals of the desert. The graphic representation is interactive and by clicking on an orbiting sub topic that link then becomes a hub leading you to other linked information. When you click on the "+" in the circle in the upper left corner you will have a link to the URL and further description of that resource. It also worked well with the topic "3rd grade Math".

You also have the ability to manipulate and save a particular graphic representation. I have not been quite as excited about any tool recently as I am about this one. For students this has tremendous potential to deepen their research and assure that they do not just stick with the first things they find on Google. It also helps them to understand the power of the networked information that is now available. For the teachers it puts a whole network of information at their finger tips in a format that will make it infinitely easier for them to access and utilize the resources of this information age. Go and play with this tool and see what you think. Just for fun put in your name and see where that leads. I would love to hear your ideas about how this can be used. it will be the tool of the day for our technology playground this month!

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Friday, October 05, 2007

Color me illiterate!


Becoming a life long learner and globally connected just underscores how much I still need to learn. I was perusing the K12Online schedule today in an effort to plan some staff activities when I had an aha moment. When I taught 6th grade part of my curriculum included world time zones and though I taught it and the kids more or less got it none of us really understood it. Why? Because we had no real use for it! Like I said in my previous post knowledge without context and application is not of much value. So now I am confessing I am functionally illiterate in this area and I am setting out to fix this problem. Yes, I know there are time converters and world clocks but I want more than time conversion I want to understand. I just found out that my time zone is GMT -8 now I need to learn how to use that information!
Photo Credits:by melissambwilkinshttp://flickr.com/photos/melissambwilkins/388974924/

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Taking Flight and Learning New Lessons


No time to read or blog has made me feel disconnected. The beginning of the school year has been exceptionally busy but much of it has been good stuff. The connection with Snow Lake is really moving us into some new territory. From an administrative perspective it is really exciting to read the planing going on between our teachers and Clarence on the Moodle site. It is like watching a butterfly take flight! We have worked for over a year on becoming technology literate and this year the staff is ready to fly and the students are reaping the benefits.
Today I caught up on a little reading and two blogs caught my eye. One on LeaderTalk and one I can't find now but both of them talked about the issues of Internet safety. There are lots of great resources out there and I know that almost everybody who is involved in Web2.0 with students addresses this issue. Although we used blogs some last year this year we are involved in a a year long collaboration and we are using all kinds of tools including chat, voicethreads and blogs in our work with Snow Lake.
As the year began we spent a fair amount of time on internet safety. The students did research, they discussed, they prepared brochures, and they made presentations to the parents and to all of the K-8 classrooms. We were impressed with the work they did and how well they presented the material. BUT then we discovered something, it takes practice! Our students knew what the rules were and what to say but they did not translate the head knowledge into practice. With their first few blog posts and their voicethreads we began seeing risky practice. They just had not taken the lessons to heart . We then had them read all of the blog posts and rate them for risk factors. It was a most interesting exercise and many of the students had to edit their blogs. The lesson that I took away from this was how important it is that they have the opportunity to work in the digital world and use their knowledge. It would have been easy to pat ourselves on the back and say "Wow the kids gave great talks on Internet Safety" . But what good is talk without a personal context and practice. At the Junior High level the concrete reasoning skills are just beginning to develop and so we will spend the whole year learning about digital citizenship as they continue their work. It is really pretty exciting to consider how important these experiences are to their formation and their future.They just do not get it until they really use it in a setting where someone is helping them to evaluate along the way. I for one feel strongly this is our responsibility. Yes, the parents are the primary educators and they need to be involved in guiding their children, continuing the lesson at home, but connectivity is the portal for learning and so we have to teach them how to enter that world- it is an essential learning space.
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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Connectedness is Transformative


Web 2.0 in education is powerful on many levels. It opens the door to education outside of the box. It creates corridors and highways of learning that have not before been available. It requires new skills and thought processes. It promotes new sense of what it means to be a citizen of this planet. And it levels the field allowing for anyone to be a contributor and creator.. Konrad posted a very thoughtful commentary on this is mid- August with some great examples of moving beyond collaboration and into contribution. I admire his work and hope to move forward to embrace much of what he talks about..... however recognizing that we are all at various points in the process of redefining teaching and learning I am struck by the notion that connectedness is the portal of transformation.

School has been in session for 9 days now and during that time we have used skype in one capacity or another almost everyday. We have had 3 skypecasts, 2 with students and one for professional development ( with another one which we had to postpone because of connection problems). As part of the Thinwall Classroom several of us have had almost daily chats with Clarence. And starting a little later this week we will be skypecasting first grade for about and hour a day because one of our students will be out of school for six weeks with a badly broken leg.

Despite living in large metropolitan area it is easy to be incredibly insulated, isolated and myopic. Skype has opened a portal to the world and begun to break down the walls of our school and classrooms. It has created an openness and a transparency that would never have been possible 10years ago. It has expanded our students world view and that of our whole community. Skype also adds the human face-to-face element to our connectedness. This is powerful. I can feel the excitement and the energy on campus growing.

Watch out the walls are begin to fall and good things are coming …..because we have opened the connections…..

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Picture credits: Uploaded on February 10, 2007
by Mark H. Baker

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Synapses are Firing: Technology Playground

We are fortunate to have weekly Faculty/ Curriculum meetings on Wednesdays from 1:00 pm to 3:30. This is time dedicated to collaboration, professional development and planning. This year in planning for this time I have structure a rotation of meeting topics that is repeated monthly: Technology playground, Curriculum, Student work, Assessment.

Yesterday was the first Technology Playground meeting and it was a great start to the year. Part of the idea is that there needs to be time to try new applications and to explore their application in the classroom. We focused on two “skills” to start the year and we split the staff into two groups. Jan, our tech wizard, worked with one and I worked with the other but the staff actually taught each other as they rotated through the two stations. One task yesterday was to make sure each teacher had ( and understood how to use) an iGoogle page which included at a minimum, Google reader, Google notebook, goggle docs, Google calendar and a bookmark widget for those things that did not have an RSS feed. The staff had 5 bookmarks* to start thier Google reader and we share a school master calendar and a few documents. One of the best things was the realization that igoogle could make life easier. They also saw, first hand, how valuable RSS could be. I have talked about RSS for a year now and tried to show how to use it but the beauty of iGoogle was that it brought everything into one place .

The other task was to register for Voicethread and learn how to use it. We are really excited abut this application and it will be something all of the teachers use at some point this year. In the lower grades it will be a wonderful opportunity for the students to explain their learning and develop their oral language skills. We are also considering using it as a way to connect some classrooms around the globe. Last year we started the photo-a-day for schools which was a lot of fun but hard to administer. Now we are wondering about a weekly voicethread as a window to connect schools.

Would you be interested? We are open to grades K to 8. in California the social studies standards for second grade include understanding the differences in locations and this would be a great way to help the students truly grasp this!

Thanks to voice thread, skype and Joyce, another piece of just-in-time learning that surfaced was an interest in Avatars. Each teacher is going to create one for use on their webpage and with voicethread.

*Clarence, Jeff, Darren, David Warlick, Will Richardson

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Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/oceanflynn/309589221/

Friday, August 31, 2007

Tools, Pedagogy and Networks- How do we build effective schools?


Clarence chronicled the edublogosphere's discussions over time recently as starting with tools moving to pedagogy and now needing to begin exploring the ramifications and practical aspects of learning networks. He poses some good questions about leading the students into learning networks and dealing with information flow. From my perspective however, the post also made me reflect on the whole process of school change and where we are on the continuum. ( or is it even a continuum?)

As administrators and technology coordinators work on professional development opportunities and provide support and encouragement for change how do we keep these components in balance.

Tools- There are hundreds ( thousands?) of things we can employ in the classroom. While my first inclination was to always be playing with the newest and coolest it only serve to frustrate those who are not quite as geeky as I am. There are three questions that might drive the tools we explore at school now. 1) What are the basic essentials for a 2.0 classroom? I am thinking wikis, blogs, podcasts/vcast, skype a reader(RSS), photo program/storage/sharing, and online WP like google docs. 2) In picking specific applications, what is the learning curve for a neophyte? 3) What do we need/ what will help us with this project/concept /goal? This is the category where things like voicethread and flickrphoto storm would appear. As we work with Clarence this year it will also push the envelope for both students and staff. ( Okay, maybe there are 4 questions...What are people naturally interested in learning? For example after our last faculty meeting one teacher was spontaneously showing another teacher how to make an avatar)

Pedagogy- This is an ongoing discussion. I see it as the place where visions are shared and the place that drives us to explore new tools because we identify new learning needs. This is where our growing understanding of literacy, creativity ( see the revised Blooms) and thinking skills has a home. This is also the category that lead to our new mission statement. (see previous post)

Networks- This I think is a question of accessing information and building knowledge. While the issues for our students are real and there are a lot of questions to explore so too for our teachers. My reflection in this area has a lot to do with what kind of PLN is important for educators. This is part of the comment I left on Clarence's blog (...as you can see he got me thinking about where we need to go) "From an administrative perspective the whole issue of PLN for the staff is taking on new levels of meaning. In the beginning I was looking to get everybody reading blogs in the edublogosphere. That is still part of the strategy but it is also time to start exploring subject specific sources of information. Maybe this is obvious but like it or not change/learning is incremental and the movement to have educators embrace digital sources as key components of knowledge takes some deliberate, modeling, experiences, and planning." once this is happening we will have to discuss questions about sorting information and what is useful and what is not...but learning by doing has always been one of the most effective methods.

Illustration from http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/physical/images/stages_change.gif

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Perspectives


One year later……..

Last year at this time the tools of web 2.0 were introduced to the faculty and staff. At that time we discussed the phrase in our mission statement which said we “educate students for the 21st century” We were not sure exactly what that meant or what it looked liked but we were determined to try to figure it out. We did a lot of exciting things many of which I have written about in earlier posts. The bottom line was that we decided to learn by doing.

Last week we gathered once again for the request start of year faculty meetings. During this meeting, based on our experiences last year, we looked once again at our mission statement. This time however we set about writing a new mission statement. This new mission statement is meant to define more clearly our new understanding of the essential tasks we are undertaking. As with all tasks done within the confines of your own community the test of viability and clarity is to bring that work out to the community at large. So here is the mission statement we developed.

”The mission of the St. Elisabeth School Learning Academies is to provide an excellent academic and spiritual foundation that will empower the students to be moral and responsible citizens who effectively apply technology as a tool of learning and as a means to actively participate in the global community.”

What do you think? Does it resonate with you? How will it impact teaching and learning?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A Vacation Delayed Meme Response

While I was on vacation both Cathy Nelson an d Clay Burell tagged me with the 8 Random Things Meme so now that I am back I wanted to take a moment to respond before the I get too busy with the start of school.

First, I am to post the rules:

  • List 8 random facts about yourself
  • At the end of your post, choose (tag) 8 people and list their names, linking to them
  • Leave a comment on their blog, letting them know they’ve been tagged

My Facts:

1. I love to play board games, especially those from Germany, like Carcassone and Catan.

2. I have a life goal to visit as many National Parks as possible.

3. I never planned to go into education but I absolutely love teaching and would not trade this profession for any other.

4. I have read all the Harry Potter books and all of the Tom Clancy books and all of the Tony Hillerman Books to name a few....

5. I sketch and paint when I camp.

6. The Logan County Historical Society Museum is located in my mother's childhood home.

7. I like to geochache.

8. I found my first bookcrossing book in Yosemite this year and have since released two books.

Now I am tagging:

Patrick Higgins
Janice Stearns
Clarence Fisher ( Whoops - he already was tagged)
David Muir
Greg Carroll
Steve Hardagon
Kelly Whobbes ( Kelly has already been tagged too..-guess Iwas on vacation too long)
Tom Hemingway


Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Trees that Rewrote History

Back from a wonderful two weeks in the Eastern Sierras and the high country of Yosemite! My first stop on vacation was a day trip into the White Mountains of California, home of the "trees that rewrote history". This was a fascinating venture into the world of the Bristlecone Pine Forest and the science of dendrochronology. The Bristlecone Pine Forest in this region is home to the world's oldest known living tree which is 4,776 years old. However in this region deadwood has been dated to be as old as 11,400 years old and the scientific community is continuing to explore the deadwood. in this area. Any other place in the world wood 3,000 years old would be an incredible find but in this location it has to be at least 7,000 years old to create any ripple of excitement.

The whole story of dendrochronology and the rangers explanation of the process of dating trees was captivating. It was amazing how low tech the procedure is and how much of the work like counting rings is done essentially by hand. I was also intrigued by the way that these trees have changed our understanding of history. The ranger, Christine, explained how through dendrochronology they have been able to date some of the Native American ruins by taking core sampling's from the wood used in the lintels. She also explained how the bristlecone helped to calibrate radio carbon dating and caused a shift in some of the dates assigned to historic events and locations like the great pyramids. I tried to record her talk as a podcast but I did not get a good quality audio. Therefore I have had to rely on bits an pieces to provided this abbreviated explanation. It was previously assumed that Radiocarbon was created at a constant rate and so by measuring the carbon present an object could be dated. With the discovery of the ancient bristlecone it was possible to count the rings and sample the level of radiocarbon present and thus calibrate the dating more accurately. Generally speaking it was discovered that in many instances radio carbon dating was too "young" and it was established that the level of radiocarbon created is not constant overtime but rather it is effected by a number of factors. Thus the bristlecone pines became known as the trees that rewrote history.

Another part of all of this that appealed to me was the sense of dendrochronology as a puzzle waiting to be solved. The ranger spoke about how they establish a timeline and look for overlapping patterns to establish a fixed timeline. If you know the date of one sample you can count backwards to date the others. This is all explained and illustrated much more eloquently, as in this example at the right, on the website for the Ancient Bristlecone Pine.

What a great opportunity to walk among these ancient trees and oh how painless learning is when we are choosing our path and involved in real work with others who are passionate about what they are doing. Truly both the ranger and scientist I spoke with were so passionate and animated that you were drawn into their world even if just for a short while.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Balance

I am taking off for some time outdoors! Sitting in a place like this has a way of putting life into perspective. When I get back it will be time for school to start and there will be a lot happening but for now it is time to simply enjoy life and look for the balance that will see me through the new school year. While i am camping my only technology link will be my geocache hunting. If you have never heard of geocaching it is definitely worth checking it out. It is a great hobby and a great way to teach students about physical geography!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

BCL07-The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be ignited. Plutarch

The wonderful thing about physically attending conferences is that they force you to take time to focus, Since I have been home from BLC I have been constantly busy with work and home leaving little time for reflective thinking. In the back of my mind ,however, I have been mulling over Darren Kuropatwa's presentations. BLC, as so many have said, was a wonderful opportunity to spend time with some great minds and getting to talk with and listen to Darren was certainly one of those opportunities.

I have read Darren's blog for over a year and I have always thought that the way he uses blogs and the creative assignments he used were great examples...But they are so much more than that.

A couple of days ago I was skimming the slides from a recent presentation by David Warlick and suddenly i understood in a much deeper way what Darren does and why it is so effective. Darren embodies what I read on the slide from David's presentation....

Stop integrating technology, and instead redefine literacy and integrate that."

When I read that I realized that not only did I agree with it but that Darren is doing just that. In his field of mathematics he has chosen to teach literacy and that in so doing he is enabling students to become mathematical thinkers who can do much more than recall content. They can construct meaning using mathematical concepts. In Darren's presentation he strove to reveal the pedagogy that facilitates this kind of learning. He is very cognizant of the need to create learning environments that are not dependent on big personalities or heavy lifters and as he walked us through his process there was great emphasis on sustainability, and scalable activities.. I encourage you to take the time to look at his slides and listen to the podcasts of his presentations. ( I think at this point only first talk is up but I am sure the others will follow soon.)

Classroom scribes shift the focus and the responsibility on to the learners. It provides an annotated record of learning and a resource that serves more than the immediate community. It allows for mentoring and the addition of expert voices beyond the traditional voice of the teacher. Darren's wiki for the Scribe Hall of Fame is open to all classrooms and all subjects that use scribes so we can both view exemplary posts and provide motivation for students to strive for excellence. Darren also described how this is student driven and how he hands over the selection process for exemplary work to the students. It is all about encouraging the students to take responsibility for their learning. I missed Darren's second talk but the third one was on assessment. It was a powerful look at assessment for mastery, and assessment of mathematical literacy. The slides with examples and rubrics are on slideshare.

Technology, be it blogs, wikis, flickr rss,or de.licio.us all play a role in Darren's classroom and as he discovers new tools he incorporated them also but not as an end but as means for him to effectively engage the students in mathematical thinking and creatively applying that thinking within the context of redefined literacies.

One of the questions that Darren asks and that we all must ask is .....What will your student's remember in 5 years? It is time for us to look seriously at the revised Bloom's taxonomy and to remember that......

"The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be ignited' Plutarch

Photo: Sidewalk algebra http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=sidewalk+algebra&m=text
by hen power
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Sunday, July 22, 2007

BLC Weaving together one little bit of what I learned.

I am home from BLC but I have not quite left the conference yet. On the plane I was reviewing podcasts and at home I have been reading others reflections and the skypecasts of the various sessions. I am not very effective at blogging conferences because others are able to record the content much faster than I am and it takes me time to figure out what I am taking away. As I was reflecting on my BLC experience once again (as at NECC) the personal face to face conversations had a big impact as did the skypecasts conversations because they continue to form and inform my personal learning network (PLN) which will sustain my work and my growth. ( Of course it also just plain fun to hang out with people from all over the globe who share your passion).

As I continue to sort through everything I heard and saw one idea seemed to keep resurfacing in different contexts. That was the concept of place. We often talk about things like global connections, flat world, spikey world and the breaking down of walls in classrooms/schools. But I heard something a little different at BLC, something more fundamental and more foundational about redefining how we think about place. Fittingly the first presentation I attended was by Dean Sharenski titled “Moving Beyond the WOW Factor in Google Earth”. It was a great presentation for me on both a practical and theoretical level. But in terms of place it served to remind us that the access to physical locations is almost limitless and the wow was the application called unype which mashes GE and skype and allows for 3d walk arounds.

This practical look at places is an essential starting point but it is only one dimension of place. Ewan McIntosh challenges my sense of place asking about public and private, implicit and explicit at once challenging our judgments and our ability to be transparent in our work/our classroom/our schools. The keynote presentation by Dr Zhao challenged the concepts of world and place looking at virtual space, cultural space and economic space. Joyce Valenza challenged the concept of library as place and talked about being available where and when she was needed by students. Finally all of this came together in Chris Lehman and Christian Long’s discussion of the creation of SLA. The question of design was a question about essential purpose of this place/space.

When we think about knowledge in relationship to place the traditional concepts of the last few hundred years has centered on books, libraries, scholars or teachers and schools. These are relatively static places and we have now entered a dynamic age. The challenge which Ewan left us with and Chris and Christian raised was that in thinking of “school” we need to reinvision our sense of place. We need to identify our goals, our essential purpose and then we need to design a public, explicit and transparent place which allows learning and the process of learning and creating to take center stage.

In the skypecasts of Chris and Christians presentation I pondered: Can we empty our rooms before school begins and challenge ourselves to start from scratch rather than automatically putting in 30 desks 2 file cabinets etc. I was challenged by David Jakes: Empty rooms, but also empty ourselves, use the empty room and starting over as a metaphor for improved teaching and learning.

If anything has and is changing radically in our world it is this sense of place and as we struggle with how it forms and informs our world I need to struggle with school as place and it begins with our goals. Schools must enable students to research, create, communicate and collaborate .... it should be a place of performance, invention resourcefulness, and networking . It should be a space that encourages us to negotiate and explore new places and that is what technology enables.
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Saturday, July 07, 2007

Real World Math ( PS Librarian Needed)

Since NECC I have come to appreciate the importance of the role of librarian. Unfortunately we do not have a librarian and so I find myself trying to fill the role of research assistant along with my job as principal. I have already begun looking for the money to hire a librarian because based on Joyce's talks I see the role in a whole new light. The librarian is an essential resource to support information literacy for teachers and students alike.

In the meantime though ...I spend some of my time looking for resources and I stumble don this website today for Real World Math. I have not delved very deeply but I like what I saw and maybe it will be useful for you too! PS- The link is to the front page which includes some other things- for Math check out the left sidebar "Algebra in the Real World"

Hats off to all the 2.0 librarians out there!



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Monday, July 02, 2007

NECC Take Aways- Setting a direction

One of my great finds on the exhibit floor was actually a T-shirt. It is not that the T-shirt is so fashionable , although it is better looking than the big yellow bag, but the message on the shirt is truly worth pondering. The shirt came form NetTrekker and the message was crafted by a group of educators...It reads as follows-

21 Skills for 21st century learning!

Can your students....

Make complex choices?

Benchmark a process?

manage a negotiation?

Communicate clearly?

Motivate others?

Connect globally?

Organize information?

Cope with change?

Read a digital map?

Demonstrate innovativeness?

Resolve conflict?

Distinguish fact from opinion?

Respond to a blog?

Frame problems and solutions?

Sell ideas to others/

Give an effective presentation?

Set priorities and goals?

Lead a team?

Use technology well?

Learn outside the classroom?

Work effectively in teams?

One of my take aways from Edubloggers and NECC had to do with clarifying the goal. Our school will be revisiting our Student learning Expectations (SLEs) this year. They represent our unique identity and our understanding of what students will know and be able to do when they graduate from our school. We wrote our current SLE’s 5 years ago and they were very content oriented, reflecting pretty discreet packages of knowledge we would impart to the students. A lot has changed since then. The questions above can form the framework of some great discussion for all of us. They reflect a shift in pedagogy, at least as I see them, from information to skills. Not just any skills though, essential skills requiring much more that mechanical mastery of a process.

I also think the new NETS are an essential framework for this discussion. I will spend the summer with staff members reflecting and collaborating on what they will look like in the classroom. By definition they too represent a shift in pedagogy and focus much less on the tools and much more on the requisite learning/thinking skills. The broad framework of creativity and innovation, communication and collaboration, research and information fluency, critical thinking problem solving and decision making, digital citizenship, and technology operations and concepts may well become the organizational structure of curricular content.

This whole exercise will give us an opportunity to think outside box. Can we unpack our content areas and move the modules around to create an inter-connected curriculum that creates students who can…….

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Reflecting on NECC and Philosophizing About Twitter

Many great minds have blogged during NECC but I do not find my mind nimble enough to blog on the fly. I like the skype streams Jeff posted...that kind of on the spot thinking and reflecting works better for me. Now with NECC over as i sit in the airport I can start to sort out my experience and my take aways. I will l add my humble voice to the arena...partly to work through my thoughts...partly to share the things that impacted me... partly to create a record that can guide my own planning for the future.

Monday at NECC.......and everyday at NECC..(I have to say it )... is about the conversations and the relationships and that is the hard part to bring to those of you who were viewing from a distance. A few folks have skyped in for bits and pieces (of course the built -in camera in the Apple /Mac world helps here). The afternoon in the bloggers lounge was the gathering place of monumental proportion. The lounges are a great edition to NECC allowing like minded souls to congregate and find one another. At any given time in the day you can pull up a chair in the lounge and have some good conversation. And then there was/is twitter. I just read Chris Sessums beginning reflection on it educational potential. But the most powerful thing for me is the quote he starts with and his reflection..."it makes us feel good about being human." At the Leadership Symposium David Warlick talked about the digital divide having to do with being connected which struck me at the time and now seems even more empowering. Twitter has the potential to make us neighbors across time and space. It is different than most other mediums...it shrinks are world and catches us up when we drop into the "neighborhood". We will see what will be...but for now it is extending my community and my NECC/Edubloggers experience.

As for NECC...I am not sure how much I will write on specific sessions but I will try to articulate my take aways.

New friends/new voices to inform my thought and practice

New understanding of some tools and new tools- the best one being voice thread

A better sense of how to proceed minus textbooks ( this one probably deserves a post of its own)

A better concept of the need for change in the setup of our physical space

A validation of where I am going but more importantly a more deliberate plan moving into the future

Two areas were particularly impacted...

Approaching professional development and technology training through deliberately guided discussion of pedagogy and planning

This came through Karl Fisch( and team) and through conversation with Chris Lehman

Both painted a great picture of the process they used starting with identify what learning they wanted , discussing what it might look like and then looking at tools and just in time instruction. Seems simple enough but for some reason it came together for me as a deliberate strategy in these conversations

The other has to do with leadership style and thing sI need to cultivate in myself and then through that within the community. Again Chris contributed here as did the keynote with Dr Tyson and a lot of my conversations. It is that constant flow of recognition , appreciation and celebration which is so important to a community.Again nothing earth shattering but in relationship and conversation with others we can get new focus for our own practice.

I apoligize for the kind of journaling flavor of this post...but then again that is part of the blogging experience...time to collect your own thoughts. I will post more about the textbook issue and I will be interested to see how the twitter discussion develops.

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

EdubloggerCon and NECC- In the beginning

Edublogger Con and the ISTE Leadership Symposium are the lead offs to my Atlanta experience. Yesterday was a relaxed gathering with a lot of great conversations. It was kind of fun to listen to the way we greeted each other...revealing our connections...sometimes it was the blog name that made the connection sometimes the 2nd life name...aha you are the Knowclue Kid...I know you now! I have to say even in our digital world there is something great about face to face meetings that solidify relationships and friendships. Plus you can ask all of the questions you have been saving for these moments.

There were many highlights but the end of the day stuck with me. The last "conversation" I attended was led by Chris Lehman on administration in a 2.0 school. (Probably because this issue is near and dear to me...) Chris opened the conversation with the staement that "We finally have the tools to live Dewey's dream... " this statement is worthy of some further reflection. Since I am not ready to do that here you can take a look at these Dewey quotes for yourself.

. John Dewey believed that “learning is a product and reward of occupation with subject matter.” He believed that good teachers give their students something to do and not something to learn. He also believed that education takes place indirectly through the medium of the environment. I believe that Dewey’s words could be interpreted today as an encouragement to create online environments - online extensions of our classrooms - where students can explore ideas that they find personally meaningful and relevant. ( from Konrad)

During the conversation we identified a number of kep components involved in supporting and encouraging change. Among these we discussed the need to make time by re-examining prioritiies and tasks, teaching schedules and daily schedules. We also discussed efining data- the way we collect it and the way we share it.This was a recurring theme in several strands. If we do not address this issue other will define this for us and that could have a serious impact on what we are doing and where we are going. Even this morning in the Leadership Symposium when we talked about what the refreshed NETS will look like in the classroom the data issue was ever present. My thinking returned to the classic "t" graph......What will I see and hear when I visit classrooms that will rveal the integration of NETS. I think the refreshed NETS are clearly accessible to all curriculum areas but defining a picture of them in action will be part of my summer task. okay now i am thinking aloud...Maybe (just maybe) I can get the staff to join in a collaborative document that can flesh this out. This morning ISTE launched a survey which will be open all week to genrate lesson plan ideas for the refreshed NETS. I am assuming it will be posted to their web site eventually.

One final note for the conference so far... In David's talk for the leadership Symposium this morning one thing that really caught my attention was something he said about being connected. The gist of the comment was that the digital divide is not just about having technology it is about being connected versus being alone. This to will take a little reflection...at least on the surface it is a powerful concept. certainly the global connectivity we have redefines relationships. Finally to end on a light note David also used a phrase that I had not heard and had a nice twist to it. in talking abut tagging and the ability to file things in multiple places he said , "that would be hard to do in the molecule world". I like that the digital world ve the molecule world.!

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Monday, June 04, 2007

A Red Letter Day : Today we jumped in with both feet and the water is great!


This school year is winding down but not our brave, tenacious, digital immigrant teachers! Remembering that in August our computers had two inches of dust on them, no one had used an LCD projector and blogs and wikis were a foreign language...Today we celebrate a true red letter day....

11 to 12 year old students, after a full day of classes went home, put on their full dress uniforms (includes ties for the boys) and came back to school at 5:30 to go back to class. What you asked could motivate these students to do this....their teacher of course! How you ask? With the promise of an opportunity to do something they had never done before... make a video phone call using skype to have a real time conversation with students in China. ( Special thanks to Jeff who helped make this happen even though he only has two days left in his school year!)

The kids were unsure what to expect and even a little shy as we gathered this afternoon, but once the connection was made and the other class appeared before us everybody was captivated. After the introductions the kids took turns asking questions and we all chatted for about 30 minutes! By the end of the conversation the students had a new interest in China and might even go there someday. Suddenly the study of China was real...not just some strange place in a history book...it was a real place with a school and students and through the miracle of the Internet it seemed to be just around the corner! They got a first hand account of Chinese New Year, the Great Wall and the Forbidden City and they have deepened their understanding of what they had learned. Today I can say without any hesitation that our students are moving toward a deeper understanding of our global community and our connectedness! As we discuss this experience in class ( and with our extended community) we hope it will help us construct a deeper and more robust idea of what it means to be learners in the 21st century!

At this time of year when we are making plans for next year and reflecting on this year it is my goal to assure that we end the year celebrating our accomplishments and in full stride so that we hit the ground running in the Fall. Today's experience was one giant step; students, parents and teachers were all actively involved in a whole new way of learning and in the end it was really so simple, so easy...

This post would not be complete without a special thanks to all the support we have received this year. Thank you to Don Kenzek and ISTE for getting us started with the ISTE Institute. Thank you to all of the educational bloggers who have provided ideas and inspiration. Thank you to all the members of our school community who have embraced change and sincerely are seeking ways to meet the needs of 21st century learners!
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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Online Conference in process- Join in!

Live from New Zealand... Time 4Online ! I just ran across this link in my aggregator ( from Greg's blog ) for an online conference currently in progress.The resources are growing and their ubiquitous availability means that the opportunity for all of us to receive training, mentoring and support is just a click a way all of the time. Spread the word...make this available to other members of you staff and drop in yourself on a session r two............

"I use not only all the brains I have but all I can borrow." (Woodrow Wilson)

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Let your voice be heard!

I am posting, in its entirety, a message I received from Steve Hargadon. I think it important that our voices are heard so I invite you to either respond on the ed.gov site or come on over to Classroom 2.0 and join in the discussion there.

For those in the U.S., Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings has asked for ideas on the integration of technology in education. There is a form on the ed.gov site, but no ability to dialog or even leave your contact information if you fill it out. Therefore, I have created a forum thread for each of Secretary Spellings' questions, and propose that we discuss them at Classroom 2.0 and invite her office to view the dialog on our network and even participate.

This is a terrific opportunity to not only respond but to also show the benefit of Web 2.0 technology in addressing this kind of issue.

The questions are below. Each has its own forum thread, and there are special links on the Classroom 2.0 main page. Please invite your friends and colleagues to join Classroom 2.0 and participate in this important discussion.

1. In what ways has technology improved the effectiveness of your classroom, school or district?

2. Based on your role (administrator, parent, teacher, student, entrepreneur, business leader), how have you used educational data to make better decisions or be more successful?

3. In what ways can technology help us prepare our children for global competition and reach our goals of eliminating achievement gaps and having all students read and do math on grade level by 2014?

4. What should be the federal government's role in supporting the use of technology in our educational system?

About Classroom 2.0

Welcome to Classroom 2.0's social networking site! This network is devoted to the practical application of Web 2.0 and collaborative technologies in the classroom.

Click here to visit Classroom 2.0! �

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Friday, May 25, 2007

Choosing Tools Wisely to impact Teaching/lLearning

Back from the Google Academy
Google's hospitality was wonderful and two long days passed very quickly. We looked at a lot of applications some new to me, some I had used but the theme that was ever present was the collaborative nature of all the tools. By the way not all of the tools were Google tools the focus was truly on how to support effective teaching/learning in the digital world. It was also about connections with other educators, inspiration, and encouragement!

I still have to "unpack" some of the tools and put them through their paces but one tool that will absolutely be part of our classrooms is Google Docs. Below are some of my notes. This tool along with Trailfire which I talked about in a previous post have the potential to transform and organize constructivist learning in very powerful ways because for the teachers and the students the technology will become transparent and that is exactly what we need. It is so easy to keep trying to learn the newest tool ( and I will always keep learning) but i think one of the ways I need to change my focus is to begin to decided what are the most effective tools for the job ...( effective at this point means powerful, free and easy to use so the learning curve does not become a stumbling block for any of us)


Docs (some advantages)

Can't forget to save (it is saves automatically every few minutes)

Work anywhere- does not matter whose computer ( Dad's house, School, Mom's House)

Teachers are added as collaborators on all writing and can always see what students are doing at any point - all revisions are saved and viewable on the tabs across the top

No more questioning whether any revisions are being made or who is making them

Collaboration- easy for peer collaboration too- just add the names

No more stacks of papers to review/ cuts work time and can be done anywhere there is Internet connection

Very Useful Tips

All students should name their documents by their first and last name and class period..Example 2Brown, Catherine: Of Mice and Men

If I can't find your essay you do not get a grade

Students must list you (the teacher) as collaborator - they can also list other students as collaborators so they can work/edit together.

There is also a comment tool ...all comments are automatically removed when you post to a blog

Use tags to sort list
Must upload not cut and paste or you will use formatting

To print use icon not the file menu

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A Cool New Tool for Collarboration

Trailfire a nice little free tool
I have not fully explored this but I like what I see and I can already think of lots of ways to use it... Make sure to click through to the wiki entry so you can see examples of this in action....the concept is simple but hard to explain.. it allows any collaborative group to use sticky notes look at resources and talk to each other about them... okay that was confusing...Just go take a look!
The excerpt below was from a comment left on my blog.

We did not originally envision Trailfire to be an application that would be used in education. We are, however, seeing a number of teachers beginning to use it for that purpose. I am looking for a few teachers who are interested in using technology in the classroom to take a look at our application and tell us what we can do to make it a more effective tool for teaching.

A complete explanation i and examples are found on this wiki

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Monday, May 21, 2007

It is an ongoing process

Wednesday and Thursday of the this week I will be at the google offices. I am really looking forward to this hands on learning and to spend time with some great educators. Summer is for learning and this will be my jump start into a summer full of learning.
Though I haven't been writing much I have been reading and doing some thinking. One of the things on my mind is the need to always be ready with the story. Recently online I was questioned as to why it is important for teachers to have technology skills if they already posses good teaching skills. It is actually a difficult question to answer because there are so many underlying issues that are implicit in the question. Many things ran through my mind, hundreds of quotes about the skills necessary for digital world , the year long process of discussion and discovery that the staff has undertaken at school about teaching and learning in the 2st century, the digital divide and how it will effect our community etc. Also several posts I have read recently give glimpses of an answer and I will quote a couple of them here...
Jeff wrote...
"The oppressed in the digital divide:
  1. Those without access to tools of global conversations.
  2. Those without skills to contribute to global conversations.

pg. 64

I like Siemens definition here at the end of oppressed. What does it mean to be oppressed in a digital world. Those without access and without the skills to contribute to a global conversation are at a disadvantage.

Siemens, G (2006). Knowing Knowledge. "

I lost the link to these two my apoligies to the author...I will look for it andupdate the post..it was a user error with google notebook)
We use blogs, wikis, podcasts, and many other Web 2.0 tools to help students understand that knowledge is an active process of construction and not something that arrives in a textbook, neatly compartmentalized into chapters or units.

How can we possibly help our students be co-contributors and researchers if we ourselves don’t engage as learners and experience what it means to construct knowledge?

Cents Worth » What’s go...

the 3Rs are no longer enough. They are merely elemental — compared to the rich and exciting information skills that are absolutely critical to not only our children’s future, but ours as well. ..and gaining this new information skills can only happen from within this new information landscape. It’s why every child should be walking into their classroom with a computer under their arm, every classroom should breath with the global information landscape, and every teacher should trained and practiced in the life-long-learning literacies of the emerging future.

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Kudos to the Whole Staff!

In August of this year we began our exploration of 21st century teaching and learning. We took our first look at the National Technology Standards, we began talking about blogs and wikis, and we talked about the digital world and the skills it would require of our students. This was all new information for us and we were just beginning to scratch the surface of what it might mean in terms of teaching and learning.

Every member of the staff has worked hard this year to increase their comfort level with technology and to grapple with how all of this should impact our teaching and learning. The last couple of faculty meetings have been highlighted by some excellent professional sharing. We start each meeting by sharing the professional reading from blogs or online magazines with a focus on things 2.0 and discoveries. This is constructivist learning in practice and the discoveries, questions and ideas highlight the growth we have made this year.

Among the topics of conversation at the meeting were:

  • Andy Carvin’s article that talks about when laptops “fail” it is because we are not using them for anything more than fancy pencils. The purpose of laptops according to the article is 4 fold equal access, mobility, individual creativity and collaboration. ( The digital divide is a real issue and we have an obligation to assure all students have the advantages ( and skills) needed for today’s world)
  • As a extension of our definition of literacy the question “ What is text in the 21st century?” was asked…
  • The issue of understanding vs. learning- Are we teaching for understanding?
  • The role of the teacher …we are no longer gatekeepers of knowledge…

It is interesting to note that much of the discussion was about pedagogy not the tools. Hats off to the staff for deep thinking and for constructing meaning.

In addition to these highlights we have also spent two weeks on defining literacy for the digital age. It too is an important discussion and it helps us to focus on the skills that must be imbedded within the curriculum.

Key components of our constructed definition are:
· Communicate effectively
· Utilize various forms of media
· Find , evaluate and utilize information in a moral and ethical manner
· Read fluently, write, communicate, and analyze effectively both written and digital text
· Create and participate in a global community

The following definition was also offered ( from wikipedia): “The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has drafted the following definition: "Literacy is the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate and compute, using printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning to enable an individual to achieve his or her goals, to develop his or her knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in the wider society."

Looking back we have grown tremendously and looking forward we know that the needs of our students are complex. While the basic skills involved in learning are still the foundations of education they are not enough if our students are to succeed in our digital and globally connected world.

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Sunday, May 13, 2007

It is not over yet! Keeping on, keeping on....

(Cross published to LeaderTalk)
We are in the last 6 weeks or so of school. There are multiple special events interrupting the school day and the weekends. The 8th grade thinks the year is over. The teachers who are moving on next year are torn between their present and their future. I am trying to juggle all of my normal responsibilities and do interviews, hire teachers for next year, set the calendar and class schedules and keep spirits up. This is the hardest time of year for me to find time to reflect and yet it is the time of year that gives me a great deal of insight into where we are and where we need to be going. In keeping with this kind of disjointed season here are some disjointed ponderings of a K-8 administrator as the year winds down and the level of activity increases.

Classroom walk-throughs: Inspired by the post on Walk –Through Observations by Alan on April 19 and the article Crayola Curriculum I have started my own data collection. It is never too late to get started! I want to make sure we have some good data to reflect on for our August meeting as we set our goals for the year and I want to make sure that all of the teachers also have good insights to reflect on their own practices as they go into the summer holidays. I read a post recently on Classroom 2.0 that said summers are for working and there was some real truth to it. It is the time we do our reflecting and can try new things but we need to have solid information to base that planning on. So I am diligent about doing at least 10 classes a day and I am just collecting basic data what are the students doing, how many are on task , what instructional strategy is in place. I am actually excited about looking at this information right before we break for summer. A side benefit is it reminds us that even in the midst of all the end of the year activity our focus is still on learning.

Hiring and classroom assignments for 07-08:
One conundrum of the hiring season for a school headed toward embracing all things 2.0 is where to find tech savvy teachers? Even recent graduates are just on the edge of the digital age and their grammar schools and high schools were 1.0 schools so that is the style of teaching they know. So what qualities am I looking for? I am looking for self-motivated learners with some understanding and appreciation of things 2.0. But then what about teaching skills and experience? Certainly they are important but for now I am going to weight my decision more on openness to and knowledge of 2.0. Without a vision for digital literacy and the role technology must play across the curriculum our classrooms will remain set in the 1.0 world and our students will be left behind. 63% of our students live at or below the poverty level and the digital divide is a reality in their life. If we do not step up to the plate and give them the skills needed for success and literacy in the Information Age they will be a step behind before they even get started.

Keeping the conversation going:
As I said above vision for and openness to 2.0 is an essential condition is the transformation of teaching and learning. So in our May/June faculty meetings we are returning to our beginning of the year discussions. What does it mean to prepare students for the 21st century? How is that different than preparing them for the 20th century? So last week the question we tackled was to define literacy. It is important for the staff to construct their own meaning and understanding and so here is what happened. They worked in groups of three and had just a few minutes to define literacy. The definitions basically reflected the following: Read, write and communicate effectively; effective written and oral communication; comprehension; and fluency. Next I asked them if historically the definition of literacy has changed overtime. They identified that originally to be literate meant being able to write your name and then over time came to include being able to read and write. Then as a group we discussed the Industrial Age vs. the Information Age and I provided some basic statistics on adult’s connections with technology vs. the 4 to 17 year olds. I then gave them a short handout “Extra! Extra! The World is Different” from NCREL and asked them to reconsider their definitions for literacy. The new definitions included global communication, finding, evaluating and using information, and understanding digital media. I could have given them articles that said all this or summarized it for them but the process was essential for this knowledge and understanding to take root. Internalizing the vision and constructing understanding of what the students need to learn is what motivates us to try new things and confront our need to make changes. It is my hope to continue this conversation until the last day of school to facilitate a summer of self directed learning, a sense of urgency and even more great ideas for next year!

Reading First:
Scott
posted a comment and a link to an article from the Oregonian that talked about how advance readers are bored by the scripted reading programs. I have been thinking about this for the last couple of weeks and while I understand the point the article makes I want to try to build some perspective on this whole issue of "scripted" programs. Simply put I have found some real positives in our program and I think sometimes we are too quick to bash these programs without a real understanding of them. Are there downsides? Yes, but since plenty of people seem prepared to point out the negatives I am going to point out positives.

The article says: " These days, Butler's students follow a strict schedule. Two hours of morning reading. An additional 40 minutes for strugglers. Writing practice"

First of all, while this maybe a true statement of the particular program in question, it is not the intent of the programs I have worked with. The 40 minutes are usually referred to as universal access time and they are to be devoted to differentiated instruction in accordance with each child's abilities on any given skill (not to just "struggling” students). This means that teaching to the middle is not enough. The students at both ends of the spectrum should be challenged. In practical terms it may not play out especially in areas that have high stakes testing. However, it is the design of the program and it is a solid concept. One that I wish traversed all classrooms. The problem is that high stakes testing continues to push us to spend all our time on one end of the spectrum and to not truly challenge all students.
I have seen other positive effects of these programs also. Much of what is required of the teachers is sound and re-enforces good instructional habits including on going professional development, coaching, pacing and the use of bulletin board as instructional aides not just pretty pictures. Could these happen without the programs and do many teachers do them anyway ...yes of course... but the programs keep these concepts in the forefront of our thinking and helps to keep us sharp. And so again as the year winds down and we are thinking and planning for next year the Reading First teachers have much to share about differentiated learning and assuring that all students are challenged.

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