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 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 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 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:
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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