Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Power of the PLN

It started with this blog post. A teacher commented in his blog that he was trying to create a new course, and he asked for help. He created a Google doc (the address is shared in his blog post) and asked for ideas. Visit the document and take a look at how his internet friends, his PLN, responded.

Is this powerful or what?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Post weekly (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Why Do You Need The Whole Internet, Anyway?

Last week I had the wonderful opportunity to work with about 400 teachers and instructional coaches from PA. I heard some wonderful tales of some excellent and exciting work that is going on around the state. It was SO inspiring to hear those stories. I saw a sample lesson where the teacher used the Classroom 2.0 ning to find other teachers who were interested in a joint project with their classes. They used Google docs to flesh out the project details. They used a wiki for their project. They blogged about their learning, And, they used a number of online tools to create their final projects.

And I heard the other side of the coin, as well. I heard from several who said that, while they loved that project idea, they wouldn't be able to do it, as ALL of those sites are blocked. Who is making that decision, anyway?

One coach even told me that she was asked by one of her board members who was concerned about their budget, "Why do you need the WHOLE Internet anyway?" Seriously! You can't make this stuff up! How do you respond to that? How confident can you possibly be in the sense that your school board is making intelligent decisions for the education of all the children in the district? How empowered does that make you feel?

I also talked to a number of coaches, including the 1:1 district coaches where Google Docs, wikispaces, blogs, and much more are blocked. I heard of their intense frustrations as they fight to get these tools opened up, only to be told no. Worse, the reasons given are completely WRONG. Total lack of understanding and an unwillingness to learn.

By their actions, those districts are saying, "We embrace technology - but only so far as it lets us do what we always did before."

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to scream, now.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Tell me it ain't so!

I was just in a webinar this morning with some wonderful educators from PA. During the session we were showing a wikispaces wiki that we will be using for an upcoming event. At one point one of those educators/leaders asked if we would not use wikispaces in the future (and I"m SURE it would also apply to PBWorks) any more because it's so frustrating for her teachers who can't access it from school because it's blocked. (You may have heard my scream, at that point.)

In all seriousness, how can that decision to block those sites STILL be allowed to stand? Where do the objections come from? If it's the school board, then someone (or a team of someones) MUST get on the next agenda and educate them on what this decision means. It's not only that the decision denies access to website but it's also that it denies access to TOOL. I'm SURE that each of us reading this post could speak for an hour without hesitation on the MANY wonderful and powerful uses for that tool, and we could talk about how such a tool raises the level of student participation on the Bloom's scale, or how it can so easily let our students construct knowledge with other students from around the world. This decision condemns every student in the district to an inferior education compared to those who are able to work with those tools. Stand up at the next board meeting and read (leave out the school specific items, of course) this post,

If the objections come from the Superintendent, then he/she MUST be invited and encouraged to attend the next ISTE conference (in Philadelphia, in 2011) to discover what all is being missed by such a decision. In today's reality, even if we graduate 100% of our students who then go on for a 4 year degree, if those students graduate without having learned to use today's tools then we've done them a TERRIBLE disservice. Scott Mcleod even went as far as suggesting:

"...the tools of learning have changed, as have the tools of collaboration, of distribution, of creation, and if our schools do not teach these – and much more – help our students to understand how they must manipulate these tools for their purposes – and the world’s – nothing else we do in school really matters, because our students will not be able to effectively work with what they know."

Now, I don't think I'd go as far as to agree with that 100% (after all, if that were true, then I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing today, as certainly I wasn't taught any of this stuff back then), but it does make us face the facts that the tools of the world have changed and it must be our duty and responsibility (Scott wonders if it's our 'moral imperative')  to recognize that and to teach our students how to use them. A Superintendent who would insist that wikispaces be blocked is one, in my opinion, who is standing directly in the way and will eventually, if not SOON, be replaced with someone who has a clear understanding of these realities.

If the decision is made at the Tech Director position, then there is another person who is in jeopardy of losing his/her job. Why? If my district has invested hundreds of thousands - or even millions - of dollars into technology equipment and infrastructure and bandwidth over the years, there must be something to show for it. If it only amounts to kids using powerpoint, then it's been a HUGE waste of money. Would you agree? One person - no matter WHO that person is or WHAT position that person holds - CANNOT long stand in the way of meaningful education. We can't afford it financially, and we can't afford it as a nation trying to raise students to be competitive in the global marketplace.

Ask that person who is blocking wikis, "What can your objections to the site POSSIBLY be that others around the country haven't already thought of and dismissed?" And, "How could you POSSIBLY defend this decision to the parents in this community who are assuming that you're providing their children with the best education possible?"

Now, if you're reading this and are thinking, "We're OK, then, Wikispaces is open", and at the same time you're blocking Diigo or Delicious or Google Docs (seriously!) then this is STILL for you. This rant isn't just limited to wikispaces, y' know. :)

I have neither patience nor tolerance for it. We can't afford it, and we can't afford to wait around while ignorance is permitted to rule. I feel another scream coming on....