Sunday, November 9, 2008

Nice Model

I saw this image posted at BoingBoing.
An artist put together real objects to model the user interface for Photoshop.

Very nice.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Unofficial, metaphorical history of classroom 2.0, Part 1

Once upon a time (so we are told by those of us inspired and beguiled by Web 2.0) some people talked and others listened, passively.

Maybe it was those ancient Druids who made sun cakes for one another in the middle of winter to beg the Sun to return. Maybe it was those

Or maybe it never really happened. Picture this: a mistral wanders into some Middle Age village with his voice, instrument, and whimsy. He begins to sing and, we are led to believe, bring some sunlight into the lives of the downtrodden peasants that fill our mental canvases of the time. Did these hard working people sit quietly to some collection of songs? Or did they, as any patron of a bar (or coffee shop) for that matter, "interact" with the singer. Perhaps they sang along. Perhaps they asked for a favorite song. Perhaps they threw rotten veggies.

In is that moment of interaction between performer and audience, I believe, that the collaborative expectations of Web 2.0 (if not the actual technology is born). We could call it the heckler theory. From pies in the face to Facebook.

(The first of a series)

Did you miss me?

After a very busy teaching year and my first year as a doctoral candidate, I decided to take the summer almost entirely off. And I was completely off from the blog.

In that time, I had some time to reflect on my practice as a teacher as well as my dissertation topic.

It seems time to get back to work.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

An Amazing Tool

Earlier today, I ran into Dipity, which is a free tool to create timelines. I can see all kinds of possible uses for my students.

One nice feature is that it creates a timeline from blog posts. Here is one from my class blog:

Suddenly, what has been a stack of information (which was never intended, at least, to be random, is ordered and tells a story.

I feel like I want to use this for all of my digital lives.

Wireless and Beyond in Education

Some colleagues are I put together a presentation on innovative uses of wireless technologies in schools. We focused on elementary schools, middle schools, and school administration.

Have a look. Let us know what you think.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

User created art

Speaking of giving students a voice, this week the new NPR news show The Takeaway did a piece on some art installations that directly involved the voices of the audience.

One of the exhibits is an installation in Queens.
... visitors to Olafur Eliasson’s "Take Your Time” exhibit at P.S. 1 in Queens can don cellphone cameras and document their movements through the exhibit, in turn becoming part of the show’s online element.
The others mentioned also were very creative in involving the audience, blurring the line somewhat between who is the creator and who is the audience.

These piece move me because it makes me think about what's possible in a classroom.

Gmail Labs and Classrooms

The Bits blog at the New York Times had an interesting piece the other day. Entitled "The Hidden Danger of Gmail Labs," it described another Google initiative, where regular folks can develop software connected to Gmail and have it pushed to those interested.

The blog discussed the archetypal conflict between freedom and chaos which seems to be the hallmark of Web 2.0. I mean, what does happen/what will happen, when people can have a voice? Is Wikipedia the ultimate in the democratization of knowledge or the insane ramblings of well, anybody?

But any creative process alternates between tightness and looseness, between brainstorming and prioritizing. And I think that Google’s ever-expanding array of services already suffers from the ills of too many different authors.

And, by extension, what happens when students are equal participants in our schools. Do we see the transformation of education into something amazing or digital graffiti?

Check out Gmail Labs here.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Newsrooms and Classrooms

I heard an interesting story on NPR's On the Media today

The theme of this week's show was the physical newsroom, and the particular story dealt with two responses to changes in the newsroom.

One part that was very interesting talked about technology, especially computers, has changed the soundscape of the newsroom. Once noisy, with the clacking of typewriters and phones and other equipment, they are now eerily silent. In fact, some newsrooms pump in "pink noise" to add sound where there is none and where there used to be lots.

I tried to think about how classrooms would/do sound differently as technology becomes more and more integrated. What old sounds will be gone? What new sounds (and new conversations) will take their place?

Take a listen.

Monday, May 26, 2008

What if it's true?

A recent article in eSchoolNews discusses the top searches performed by students in about 20,000 U.S. schools. These schools use a search engine called Net Trekker to catalog their students' web search queries.

According to the article, here are the top 15 searches being performed by students in these schools:
1. Games
2. Dogs
3. Animals
4. Civil War
5. George Washington
6. Holocaust
7. Abraham Lincoln
8. Multiplication
9. Math Games
10. Weather
11. Frogs
12. Fractions
13. Planets
14. Sharks
15. Plants

The question, for me, is: "what if this is true?" I can't help but notice that these students are not searched for pornography or YouTube videos or any of the other things that people are so worried that students will do when let loose on the internet.

I also recognize that this report is probably no where near scientific, but I think the results are more than a little compelling. Maybe, those of us who want to "protect" our students should pay closer attention to how they are actually using the Internet, and less time wrapping them in intellectual bubble wrap?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

NYSCATE Ning Social Network

A NYSCATE member, Brian C. Smith, has started a Ning social network which aims to bring together a community engaged in NYSCATE's work and mission.

You can check it out here.

NYSCATE 2008 Metro Conference Presentation

Here is the slideshow from my NYSCATE 2008 Metro Conference Presentation, entitled "What Happens When Students are Given a Voice?"

NYSCATE 2008 Metro Conference

I was fortunate enough to present at and attend the NYSCATE 2008 Metro Conference this past weekend.

I will post later about my presentation (as soon as I have a chance to turn it into a podcast). For now, I just wanted to say how struck I was by presentations that I attended. Here are some highlights:
  • A librarian (and her colleagues) in a Rockland County, New York district came up with a low cost way to do video conferencing using laptops and camcorders and free software. Check out their wiki here. They then created intra-district events that were really innovative. They took struggling Middle School readers, gave them picture and story books, which they would normally be too embarrassed to read, even if those books were at their reading level, and then created a video conference where those students read those books to elementary students. The Middle Schoolers practiced their reading (without knowing) and then had the opportunity to contribute to the younger students, all in a way that engaged all the students.
  • Educational Technology staff members in the Bronx (here's their wiki) shared a program where High School students created documentaries, and in the process learned storytelling and research skills. And created a really compelling documentary on the history of their High School.
  • A graduate student in Instructional Technology at NYIT shared research she did in which she allowed struggling students create their own curriculum with technology and through which the students did amazing work.

I left so inspired and so challenged and with so many ideas to try and sit with and let percolate.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

It may seem strange

I just saw this commercial for Cisco (well, I saw the English language version, but YouTube only had this Italian version).

I don't care that much about Cisco and I don't care that much about skateboarding. But I do care about the possibility of using technology for collaboration.

Now, as you are watching, replace the skateboard with ANYTHING from our curricula or learning environment.

What happens when our students are given a voice?

Sunday, April 6, 2008

A Cool Tool

Thanks to the folks at AcademHack, I have been playing around with Evernote, a combination desktop/web tool for capturing and managing notes of all types. You can add tags (of course). You can search and collect all kinds of notes, pictures, sounds, etc. It can search for words within pictures.

The biggest thing for me, however, was watching the getting started video. As I watched it, I thought it would make a really interesting tool in the classroom for talking to students about collecting, categorizing, and retrieving information and materials.

Let me know what you think.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Who says?

I know that it seems to be common knowledge that state-mandated curricula and assessments mean we can't really teach the thinks we all believe are important -- like critical thinking and communication (thanks Alan November whom I got to hear at TechExpo 2008).

Here's someone (else) who is willing to question common knowledge. Check it out. It is great.

Sunday, March 9, 2008


Geekymomma had a recent post about 21st century learners which was definitely worth reading.

Here's part of what she said:
The difficult part is where teachers have to come out of their comfort zones. I've taught a few classes for some local college "education technology" classes and the instructors usually ask me to teach their students about the "stuff" we have and how to use it. I'm often invited to schools to speak to faculties and mostly they want me to demonstrate some of the "stuff" we offer in our district and how to use it. So, through no fault of their own, even the instructors and the adminstrators don't always "get" that if we can teach people to think differently and to teach their students SKILLS (duh!) and use some cool tools at the same time, then there will be some terrific success. BUT WE DON'T START WITH THE TOOLS! (Do you pick up a hammer and ask yourself what you can build today?)
Here's part of my response on her blog:
I use a lot of technology in my middle school (7th and 8th grade) life science classroom. My students have used a classblog, a wiki, GoogleDocs, created podcasts, created Flash animations, etc.

All of it (all of it) has been incredibly useful and productive, for both my students and I.

I have come to believe that engagement is the issue (just like in the video) and not the technology.

Unfortunately, the cottage industry of technology tool providers would have us believe otherwise, in the archetypal "silver bullet" for education.

I so want those of us using technology to beat the drum for engagement, engagement, engagement.

I would also like to see the next, natural outcome, which is student ownership of their own learning and for the learning environment as well.

Her post also featured this video, which was very cool.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Two Million Minutes

Here is the trailer for a film called "Two Million Minutes."

From the makers:
Regardless of nationality, as soon as a student completes the eighth grade -- they have just Two Million Minutes to prepare for college and ultimately a career.

This important documentary examines how students in India and China are being better prepared than American students to compete in a flattening world.

People Power

An ongoing question for me continues to be: "What happens when people are given a voice?"

I ask it often of myself about my students in a middle school science classroom. But the power of the internet to allow for easy, free collaboration and networking takes the question to an entirely new level.

This week, NPR's series On the Media interviews Clay Shirky, who has just published a book called Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations. The interview was (for me at least) a discussion about the question I have been asking myself.

You can listen to the interview in the player below. You can also go to the On the Media website for a transcript. According to the site, the transcript will be available as of the afternoon of Monday, March 3rd.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Constructivism with Pete Seeger

This weekend I heard Pete Seeger interviewed on Bob Edwards Weekend (thanks to the folks at PRI and XM Radio).

During the interview, Seeger mentioned two anecdotes that were all about education (at least to me).

1. He talked about Woody Guthrie and the composition of "This Land is Your Land." He said that the song never ended up on the radio. It ended up being shared by teachers in schools with their students and within about 15 years, a whole generation of Americans knew the song "as if it was always there somehow."

I assume the story is true. It is, at least, plausible. I found it eye-opening for the vision it has of teachers.

2. Seeger talked about Participation. Here's what he said:

"Participation is the salvation of the human race. Participate in games, fun, storytelling. And when you are grown up, participate in education. Learn to ask questions. The most important thing in the world is to learn how to ask questions. Next, most important thing is to learn how to give a report (of what you've read or learned)... And, you learn how to work with other people."

(You can listen to the whole interview here).

Imagine, how that could be translated in your classroom, in your schools, in your communities, in your families, in your company.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

One from many or Many from many?

Scott McLeod recently published an interesting set of diagrams on his Dangerously Irrelevant blog (which is incredibly worth reading, by the way). He uses them to tell a story.

The story he wants to tell is about what seems to most effectively contribute to a creative economy.

I certainly agree with him, but saw them as telling another story as well. I saw them as depicting the ends of a spectrum of the relationships between teachers and students in a classroom. Does a teacher shape everything into "one right answer" or does he/she allow possibility to arise from these relationships in the classroom.

This dilemma is a very real one for me right now. The school year so far has been about living out the question: "What happens when students get to use their own voice?"

In most cases, my experience is that of a profound thing of beauty. The kinds of things that make teaching (and life) worth while.

I thank Scott for giving diagrammatic representation to my experience.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Buy this Book! Now!

I am three chapters into the new book, Reinventing Project-Based Learning by Suzie Boss and Jane Krauss. Here is a link to their blog.

It is essential reading for any one of us interested in bringing Web 2.0 and other technological tools into our classrooms and schools in order to give student opportunities for authentic learning.
You know how ideas sometime quietly get under your skin and just work away at you? Right now, I am being worked away at by finding opportunities to collaborate with colleagues in and out of the building, here and elsewhere.

You can get the book via Amazon or ISTE.

Let me know what you think.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Some amazing art

A colleague shared some of Peter Callesen's art with me today.
In some of it, he creates 3-dimension paper sculptures. The rule is that each one is made from only one piece of paper.

There's an example of one above.

Here is what the artist says about his work:
My paper works have lately been based around an exploration of the relationship between two and three dimensionality. I find this materialization of a flat piece of paper into a 3D form almost as a magic process - or maybe one could call it obvious magic, because the process is obvious and the figures still stick to their origin, without the possibility of escaping. In that sense there is also an aspect of something tragic in most of the cuts.

The cool thing for me, in looking at them, is the progression from the more simple relationships between the figures and the original piece of paper (like the skeleton) to those where the relationships are more and more complex.

It made me think of the process of ownership, where knowledge or skills move from something that belongs to someone else to something that belongs to you. The relationship between you and the knowledge and/or skills gets deeper and deeper and deeper.

Check them out here.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

An example of what can happen

As had been widely reported, the Library of Congress has launched a pilot program with Flickr. The pilot has placed 3100 of the Library's photo collection with the photo sharing site.

Here a report from the Library of Congress blog:

Let’s start out with a few statistics, as of last night:

• 392,000 views on the photostream
• 650,000 views of photos
• Adding in set and collection page views, there were about 1.1 million total views on our account
• All 3,100+ photos have been viewed
• 420 of the photos have comments
• 1,200 of the photos have been favorited

And just look at all of those tags!

What blew me away when I read this was that prior to this pilot, people seeing the photos in the Library would have had whatever responses they did, but there would never have been this level of interaction/participation/adding value.

As I always say, what would people say if you gave them a voice?


Social networking as power learning

This article from the looks at some students who are using social networking for learning (as opposed to all the other things they could use it for.

Here's great quote:
The high schoolers took a more direct approach. They felt that world peace cannot be obtained without global understanding and respect. Working with a German foreign-exchange student, they decided to collaborate on music composition with students in Germany, entirely online. They “jam-glued” a collaboration site for use by all participants. If they could compose together, they can understand each other better. Collaborative understanding = world peace.

Learning was fun and inevitable. And is

The question for me is this:
What happens when students actually have a voice?
What would say? And how? And to whom?

Blogged with Flock

Monday, January 14, 2008

I'm in love!

Today, I had a chance to spend some time playing with the XO Laptop (aka, the One Laptop Per Child Laptop).

There have been many (and more detailed) reviews/praises/criticisms published, (like the one below from David Pogue) so I'll not try to compete with them.

What struck me most was the revolution of the interface. [You can read their interface guidelines here. And check out an online demo here.] The focus (unlike most PCs) is around play and collaboration, as opposed to "productivity." In my experience, the icons draw you in and the machine really, really delivers: it has WiFi, word processing, web browsing, programming (in 3 different applications), painting, video recording, audio recording/editing, and, most importantly, networking.

Here's what really hit me. I have been in lots of discussions (both face to face and online) about the role of/use of technology in K-12 situations. And, like many of us, I have strong opinions about this. But this little laptop showed me that it is possible for the whole metaphor to change. And when it does (which I am convinced in does in little XO), who knows what can be possible?

Thanks, Mr. Negroponte.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

A Study on Blogging

Jeff Felix, a superintendent for a California school district, has completed a study on the use of blogging with K-12 students. Here is a summary (from Jeff) of his findings:

The study on teachers in the United States who are using blogging as an instructional practice has finally been completed. The study shows that teachers perceive a significant increase in student learning through motivation for assignments and through deeper thought processes. Students seem to enjoy the connectiveness of their work to other subjects and to each other. This collaboration encourages a deeper relationship with their peers and with the teacher.

Jeff has generously made the full study, as well as a shorter paper available on his blog. I celebrate and appreciate it work and commend it to all of us committed to opening up new possibilities for our students using Web 2.0 tools.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

How does learning work?

This morning my 3 1/2 year old looked at this picture, the cover from the latest issue of Wired.

Then, he said, "Look, there's some juice in the snow."

It reminded me that we learn new concepts by piggbacking them on what we already know. Then, as we go on, we fix any misconceptions (or they are fixed for us) -- hopefully.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Amazing use of tools to visualize statistics

Happy New Year!

Here is a video from TED which shows global health expert Hans Rosling looking at trends in the developed and developing worlds.

What he says is cool, for sure.

How he says it, using some amazing tools to visualize the statistics is really impressive.

What if we did this in our classrooms?
What if we taught our students to do this in (and out of our classrooms)?