Thursday, December 13, 2007

It may seem strange, but ...

This year in my science class I have been focusing on designing activities to help the students model and visualize important concepts.

So, when I came across this video (thanks to BoingBoing) which demonstrates a software tool for designing plush toys (stuffed animals), it piqued my interest.


Friday, November 23, 2007

Visualizing a technology divide

The education/technology blog Dangerously Irrelevant has an interesting visual display and analysis of the gap between home and outside of home usage of technology across various constituencies. One of these is students, and so is of interest to me.

Here is an interesting analysis:
Speaking generally, the people in charge of implementing technology initiatives likely are high users at both home and work, with a fair amount of overlap in terms of the tools that they use. Teachers and administrators, on the other hand, probably are not using technology near as often. Also, they likely have relatively little crossover between the specialized technology systems they use at work (e.g., student information systems, electronic gradebooks, PowerPoint, parent portal software, and “clickers” for formative assessment) and what they use at home (e.g., digital photo management, games). What overlap does exist is probably mostly in the arenas of e-mail, word processing, and browsing the Internet. Finally, as we know, students’ personal lives usually are much more technology-rich at home than at school. They use many more tools, most of which are not allowed during the school day.

So, what are we to do?

My own experience with middle school science students is that the types of technology they are most familiar with (cell phones, IMing, video games, iPods) are not in sync with what they use in school (word processing, blogs, podcasts).

To some degree, I have tried to span this gap by training them in the "school tech," as well as trying to make us of the technology with which they are familiar.

I find myself in different places on different days about in the conversation about preparing them for the 21st century workplace. I am not sure they we can predict well what technology needs are going to be in 10 years (which is good thing). I do think, however, that we can be more reasonably sure about what makes for engaging learning. Anyplace we can close this gap and make their everyday tech tools part of the normal learning environment, we have made learning relevant in a powerful way.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The pinata model of learning

This weekend I got to spend a lot of time with my 3 1/2 year old son. We were talking about his friend's upcoming birthday. His version went something like this:

His birthday party is next week. We are going to sing "Happy Birthday" and then he'll blow out the candles. We'll all wear hats. Yours will be pink and mine will be purple...

And on and on the story went.

Only later, it dawned on me that he was learning about the party. And he was learning because he was interacting with the story of the party. First, there was going to be a party. Then, there were more and more details (hats, singing, candle blowing, etc.).

And only later still, did I get the image of a pinata. You start with the balloon, which then gets covered with paper mache. Then, the details get added, until you have something special. That's when I started to thing that this is exactly how learning happens. And that it is our job as educators to provide the balloon framework (the basic concepts) on which our students can begin to hang details and meaning.


Saturday, November 3, 2007

Breaking the Model

I have been interested in investigating the places where learning happens (and this usually involves technology in some way) that goes beyond our traditional model of education (teachers in classrooms, homework, etc.).

Here's some things to report --

Will Richardson posted this piece on his blog about ways that he and his wife are trying to extend their children's education:

Every Tuesday afternoon for about an hour, my wife’s office turns into a classroom where my kids are making wikis, learning about searching, and creating stories around whatever their interest is. And they’re being shown some ways in which technology can be used to connect, as in the picture above. (Click on it to see a more viewable size.) A couple of weeks ago, Steve Hargadon made a guest appearance using Skype to help them identify what they might want to work on in terms of projects. And there are plans to invite other people in to speak to them and help guide their work. (Let me know if you want to volunteer!) Real people, real work, real audiences.

Then, in response or inspiration, Neil Winton shares about his son's experience teaching and learning the computer programming language Scratch:

If ever you wanted proof that we can find learning everywhere and from everyone, tonight was it. The earth was flattening before my eyes as Andrew talked a group of kids in America through an introduction to programming. I need to think more fully about the implications of what I was watching, and I think I need someone like Will himself to give these thoughts some shape and direction. The implications of being able to find what you want to know from someone who is willing to share… even if they are not present… turns our traditional model of education on its head… and even more so when you realise that the person with the knowledge you require might be the person you thought you ought to be teaching!

What happens when more and more of us "play" with these kinds of ideas?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Web 2.0 Tools in the Classroom

Here is a presentation I put together for a workshop I did this week for teachers in my district on Web 2.0 tools in the classroom.

The slideshow has clickable links to the various tools I discussed.


What if....

Here is a quote from an interview with Harvard's Harvey Cox on the NPR show, Speaking of Faith.

I have a hunch that congregational life is going to move in a more conversational direction — study groups and, I might say, a less kind of pulpit-centered audience format into a way in which people can sort through their concerns and their doubts and their aspirations for other people. Periodically, any religious tradition does have to go through this kind of waiting, this period of expectation and openness and hope for new, new ways of expressing faith.

Now, imagine that the works congregational and pulpit and religious are replaced by education terms. It might read like this:

I have a hunch that school life is going to move in a more conversational direction — study groups and, I might say, a less kind of teacher-centered audience format into a way in which people can sort through their concerns and their doubts and their aspirations for other people. Periodically, any educational tradition does have to go through this kind of waiting, this period of expectation and openness and hope for new, new ways of expressing reform.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Inventing New Boundaries

I just finished watching the Pre-Conference Keynote for the K-12 Online Conference. The presentation was called "Inventing New Boundaries" and was "assembled" by David Warlick.

What can I say? Here is one quote that just knocked me out (I am sure they are not entirely perfect):

These digital natives have invisible tenatacles that connect them to the rest of the world. The problem is, when they enter our classrooms, we chop them off because we want them to be the students we want to teach rather than teaching who they are. And this is an insult to our children.

I am wanting to shout about this from the rooftops -- which would probably be more effective than posting it here, since I have maybe 1 reader as far as I know.

I have been trying to share what David talks about in this presentation with other colleagues and teachers and students for the past year or so. I no longer feel so alone.

A Powerful Video

Thanks to a fellow teacher, I was able to watch (and be moved by) this video. It is called "Education 2.0." Here is what the author says:

Education used to be about transfer of information from teacher to student. Now there is too much information available in the world. Much of this information is being used by people trying to sell us something: an idea, a product, a political agenda, a way of seeing our entire country.

New Hampton School's Junior Urban Adventure attempts to turn around this notion of one-way education in the same way that Web 2.0 is changing the way we think about the web. Students will learn to ask questions, make meaning from the glut of information available to them and engage, upload and maybe even start to solve some of the world's problems.

Friday, October 5, 2007

One Teacher's Digital World

Thanks to this article from Education Week's Digital Directions, which is an introduction to the use of wikis by teachers, I found this class/teacher wiki. Ms. D., the teacher, has used the wiki has a bit of a mission statement:

The learning community in Mrs. D's classroom will use this collaborative space to connect with each other and create the tools we will use to construct our understanding of the forces that have worked throughout history to shape our world.

There are links to Ms. D.'s class blog (powered by Class Blogmeister) and her class podcast, where students are producing podcasts that supplement their study of World War II.

This teacher and these students are really living that mission statement.

Very inspiring!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

An Amazing Class Blog

I just came across this class blog for an AP Biology class.

This (brilliant) teacher has invented a role for the students. They are sherpas, and their jobs (like the actual sherpas in the Himalayas) is to be a guide to the other students and to generally contribute to the learning in the class.

What will the sherpa do here?

1. Summarize the day's lesson.
2. Highlight the important points of the lesson -- especially highlighting concepts exemplifying the 8 themes of biology (more about these later).
3. Highlight any unanswered questions left after the class.
4. Help clarify any points of confusion left after class.
5. Point us to resources that help learn today's lesson -- like animations, videos, diagrams, photos, other teacher's Web sites that illustrate concepts we've been learning. AP Biology (Period 1&2) 2007-08: Welcome to Our Virtual Classroom:

And, the teacher's introduction:
Let me make that clear -- this isn't MY blog; this is OUR blog. This blog is what you'll make of it.

I find this so inspiring, in terms of using the blog as a tool to let students be contributing members of the class in an ongoing conversation.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

So, what happens next?

This eSchool News online article reports on a pending breakthrough in extremely low cost computing.
... small, California-based company NComputing, predicts that by 2009 many schools will be able to provide their students with portable, online capabilities for as little as $100 each--and perhaps as little as $30 or $40 per user for non-mobile devices. Wireless capacity, says Dukker, should be a relatively inexpensive bonus by then.
The article goes on to talk about schools in Macedonia:

Macedonia's Ministry of Education and Science selected NComputing over four other bidders and will use the company's "multi-user virtual desktop software," along with inexpensive terminals, to provide computing for some 400,000 students, most of whom attend school in half-day sessions.

It makes my head spin thinking about a country full of students ALL having access to Web 2.0 tools. The burning question is this: What happens when these (and any) students are fully empowered to have their own voices? What does education look like then?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

More than a thousand words

We can talk about the world getting smaller, but here's a video from Google that shows how email goes across the world.
P.S. It would make a great class project for something.

He stole the words from my mouth

I have been talking about blogging in the classroom for over a year.

Here is somebody (Mark Franek in the Christian Science Monitor) saying what I have been trying to:

My own evolution from Luddite to digital Lazarus has transformed the way I teach in my English class. I used to think that a blog was a large clog in my kitchen sink. Then last year, I took the plunge and required my students to create and maintain their own blogs, where they showcase their essays, stories, images, podcasts, and videos.

Teachers who are using blogs, social-networking sites, and video-sharing sites in school settings are giving young people the opportunity to tune their thinking and writing to a larger audience. When students know that anyone in the school with an Internet connection – or around the world, for that matter – can read what they have written or created, it is remarkable how quickly their thinking improves, not to mention the final product.

It is worth repeating his last sentence:
When students know that anyone in the school with an Internet connection – or around the world, for that matter – can read what they have written or created, it is remarkable how quickly their thinking improves, not to mention the final product.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Does this ring a bell? Stuff from Edutopia

Two things really hit me as I was reading through the recent issue of Edutopia.

The first was an editorial discussing the opportunity this editor sees in what's happening in education. He is responding to this summer's National Educational Computing Conference (NECC).

The educational community is filled with innovative thinkers, but sometimes you have to look at the margins to find them. Or just go upstairs.

While the sprawling show hummed below, some of the nation's best edubloggers were popping in and out of the Bloggers Cafe, on Level Two of the World Congress Center. It was a beehive, with dozens of bloggers rapidly exchanging ideas, and even having a few laughs.

Many of the nation's top edubloggers were there: David Warlick, Vicki Davis, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beech, Will Richardson (full disclosure: he's on our advisory board), David Jakes, Joyce Valenza -- too many to mention, really. Most arrived a day early to take part in an edubloggers' "unconference," where many met face-to-face for the first time. And nearly all agreed that the greatest energy and excitement of NECC came from the Bloggers Cafe, and the multiuser Skype conversations during sessions.To many, the main event became a sideshow.

Said Richardson, "That model of someone standing on a stage talking for an hour paled as compared to just having a conversation. The whole experience has challenged my thinking a great deal." Editor's Note: Edubloggers Innovate | Edutopia
Now, imagine that Richardson was talking about us and our students in our classrooms and read the quote again:

"That model of someone standing on a stage talking for an hour paled as compared to just having a conversation."

Later in the issue, there was an article that talked about an innovative program in rural Alaska, where students grade levels were disbanded and students worked on an individualized program to complete the district's 1000 standards.

Even as globalization and media propel our culture -- and our classrooms -- toward modes of production that are bigger, faster, and more alike, Chugach has refocused on an approach to education that is smaller, personalized, and variably paced. As Douglas Penn, the districtwide principal, explains, "Our kids graduate when they're ready. We're not pumping them out the door with Ds on their diplomas." Northern Lights: These Schools Literally Leave No Child Behind | Edutopia

So, here is one answer to the "opportunity" of our current situation in education.
What's yours?
What's mine?

Blogged with Flock

Monday, September 10, 2007

Knock Knock Joke

I have been interested in how it is that we give our students an opportunity to develop not just understanding, but ownership.

This afternoon, I listed to my 3 year old niece and her 5 year old brother (try to) tell me "knock knock" jokes. As often happens, they had the pattern, but didn't get the punchline (so to speak).

It make me think of what it takes to cross the bridge from knowledge to understanding to ownership. Somehow, we need to create a set of experiences for our students (and our selves) that facilitates moving from the pattern (or the basics) of some piece of content to a deep understanding, and finally the ability to generate knowledge for ourselves.

Knock knock.
Who's there?
Orange who?
Orange you glad I didn't talk about technology?

An Amazing Tool

I was catching up on Will Richardson's blog and found a posting about Voicethread. I have just spent a few minutes with it and my head is spinning (in a good way).

The idea is this: you can post a photo or photos or other images and then record a voicethread over it. Cool enough. But other users can record voicethreads over the same image, effectively adding a multitude of voices to one images (or one set of images). All the recording (or typing, if you prefer to annotate instead of narrate) happens inside the browser.

My head is spinning imagining the classroom opportunities. You can have a class of students react to a set of images. They can prepare really unique slide shows, ones that are much more interesting than PowerPoint (or its cousins). Here's a great example.

As a science teacher, I am thinking about posting a diagram or graph and have students talk about what it says to them.

More as it happens.

Welcome to the new home


This blog has been around for about a year as Teaching to reach every single student. My goal was to explore the role of various Web 2.0 technologies in education.

I am still interested in this topic, along with other issues in education, and will continue the conversation here.

Thanks for visiting.