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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