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 ( 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

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


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


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!