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/