Saturday, January 30, 2010

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Friday, January 29, 2010

This touches me deeply

Tonight, @bethstill retweeted this story: http://www.omaha.com/article/20100130/NEWS01/701309895 (fixed link)

This small Nebraska high school had raised over $5000 for their Junior-Senior prom. But, they decided NOT to spend the money on the prom this year, but rather to donate it to the Haiti relief fund, instead. That just... it just really gets me. We all know what a big deal the prom is, right? Yet, this group is giving it up. AND, they don't want anyone else to pay for their prom, either, as that would defeat the purpose. They're giving up their prom for the Haiti relief efforts. Are you noticing a lump in your throat, now, too?

The next time you're around someone who bashes teenagers, tell them this story. And there are so many more like this. I don't know anyone in that school, but I'm so VERY proud of them. So very, VERY proud.

Wordle in the Library Defines the Dewey Sections

I like this idea. Teams of 5th graders studied the Dewey Decimal system and then worked collaboratively to create Wordles to identify the kinds of books in each category.

Wanna see? Here they are.

Congratulations to Amy Soule, the librarian, for the idea and for encouraging the students along the way.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A World Class Education

I thought it was interesting that in tonight's State of the Union address, President Obama said that he'd settle for nothing less than a World Class Education.

I've heard that somewhere before.

"After 30+ years in the field of education I'm now on my own, doing what I LOVE to do - talking about how technology can enhance teaching and learning. I've been around since Commodore 64's and DOS 1.0 and I've seen it all. Now that the world's information is in our pockets I think that the purpose of schools has changed. In this "flat world" it is imperative that we step up to create a world class education for our students. Say it with me. "I DEMAND A WORLD CLASS EDUCATION FOR MY KIDS!"

I'm in good company. :)

Give me with your best lesson

This evening a question was put out on a listserv that I belong to, and I thought it was an excellent one. The idea was this: "We need examples of your best lessons."

What would go through your mind if you were asked that? Would you think, "Well, I could submit a few, but I'd have to fix them up a bit." or, "I'm not really sure if anyone would think that this was a good lesson.", or, "I wonder if I could have done a better job reaching higher in the Bloom's scale?" or, "Is this lesson really challenging enough and worth of a student in this grade level?" Do you have any second thoughts? Do you look at your lesson through a different lens? Really? If the WORLD could see it?

As an instructional coach that's what you encourage your teachers to ask themselves all the time, isn't it?

I think it's a great exercise. Before settling on ANY lesson plan, ask yourself, "Would I change any part of this lesson if I were going to submit it for global review?"

How many lessons of yours wouldmake the cut without even so much as a second glance - just to be sure?

OH NO!!! MAJOR BLUNDER!!

GEEZ!!! I can't believe this happened. Take heed!!!

I was sitting in an excellent live presentation and as it was wrapping up I was TRYING to hurry and paste the following quote into the chat. "Printing was considered vulgar and only for the poor. Many aristocratic bibliophiles refused to disgrace their collections with the presence of a non-manuscript text. It fell to the lower classes to recognize the importance of the printing press. And they did - by the end of the fifteenth century, more than one thousand printers had printed between eight and ten million copies of more than forty thousand book titles."

However, as today was also the announcement of Apple's iPad, and since folks had been passing around that video about it - the really crude one - I had IT in my clipboard instead of what I had TRIED to copy - that quote. Since I wanted to get it into the chat before everyone left I pasted and hit enter  - and THEN realized what I had pasted.

To anyone who may have been embarrassed by it I am truly sorry. I wonder if Kelly will EVER forgive me!

Shoot me NOW!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Who thought THIS was a good idea?

I won't link to the site, but you can read about it here.

Someone was able to conceive of this idea AND get others to help build it. I wonder how THAT conversation went?

"Hey, I've got an idea. Let's create a virtual world for little kids. They can get in there and meet other kids, and even 'get married' and have paper kids!"

"WOW! COOL! Let's DO it!"

What?

(Thanks to @smartinez for sharing that on Twitter today)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Students writing the State of the Union Address?

No, not for real, but what a cool idea for an assignment, eh?

MANY thanks to Vanessa (from MixedInk.com) for sharing this idea with me via email. She said that she heard that a radio talk show host is asking folks to submit their own version of a State of the Union Address and he'll read some of them on the air. (Brian Lehrer Show, WNYC)

Now, I'm not suggesting that they submit their assignments to the radio station, as I find the typical talk show host to be more of a hate monger than a journalist. I don't know Mr Lehrer, so he may be different. Regardless, I think that this could be a great assignment.

I'd divide the class into teams of two or three and have them research the events of the past year in terms of the President's involvement. What can he take credit for and what would be a surprise if it were to be included? I'd have them make a timeline, and collect news articles (online) and video clips (icue.com, maybe?). I think this would be a GREAT time to introduce them to the idea of a wikified paper. Ten minutes per report, tops.

The assignment would be written from the perspective of the President. The students would have to decide what to discuss and how to approach it. Their presentation could NOT include bullets in a powerpoint. And, they could compare their speeches to the actual speech to see what topics he included and how they were presented. (spun?)

Many thanks, again, to Vanessa for thinking of me to share this idea. If you do this assignment with your students, I'd LOVE to hear about it.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

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

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Looking for some Math resources

Last night I received an email from a woman who is looking for ideas for some math sites or math software that would help her daughter with her Math studies. Her daughter is a visual learner, so that's the key here. Her daughter is currently studying decimals, fractions, division, geometry - no algebra yet. Geometry is the toughest one for her. I suggested, as a place to start,  that she check the Math or Geometry tags on Diigo and Delicious and look for those that are most popular. (Like here for the popular Geometry tages in Delicious, or here for the popular Geometry tags in Diigo) But, I thought that asking for input directly might be a better option. I mean, if my PLN can connect me to a teacher in Vietnam in 30 minutes, then I'll be it can also find some great resources.

I've got a few math sites saved in Diigo (http://www.diigo.com/user/jgates513/math) but math isn't my main area of focus. Math teachers know best.

So, if you can send me (via comments here or by email) your best (tried and proven?) ideas for software or sites that would be suited for her, I'd appreciate it.

Oh, wanna know the REALLY cool part? This woman and her daughter live in Paris, France.


I know! Right?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

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

Stop now! Watch this!

First of all, I was directed to this video by Ann Johnston, Program Specialist in Instructional Technology at the Lincoln Intermediate unit (IU12), and author of the Whirlwind of a Week blog. She had posted this link to her Diigo account and shared it with a group that we both belong to. I mention that for those who are blocked from using Diigo so you don't give up your fight to get access to it at school.

This video was written by a 7th grader and produced with the help of her teacher. Maybe because I'm very tired right now from cutting firewood all day today, but I got emotional watching this video. Why? Several reasons. First, this is just SO well done that I almost immediately forgot that I was listening to a 7th grader. The production is outstanding. Even the sound is perfect.

Second, I want you to take notice of all the different tools this girl uses. She bookmarks sites in her social bookmarking site (Delicious, in this case, but she could just as easily have been using Diigo). BLOCKED in many schools. Her science teacher posts assignments, etc on a blog. BLOCKED in many schools. She blogs about what she's learning (her "reflections", she calls them) in her Blogger blog. BLOCKED in many schools. She uses Symbaloo to organize her sites. BLOCKED in many schools. She contacted a scientist to ask for some feedback about her report. She created a report on her Google Docs account and she made it public so she could share it. BLOCKED in many schools. She appears to be a master user of Evernote for collecting her resources, too. BLOCKED in many schools. She embeds YouTube videos into her presentations. BLOCKED in many schools - even for TEACHERS! She created a Glogster poster for her project. BLOCKED in many schools. She emailed a scientist in Australia, and another in the United States to ask them to review her report (because her teacher told her it was important to have your work peer reviewed). EMAIL? BLOCKED in many schools. (However, I don't know for certain that she used a school-provided email account) They use Skype to talk with scientists. BLOCKED in many schools. "Because there is so much freedom you have the inclination to be responsible." HER quote.

The third reason why this video got such a response from me is that, while this girl is DOING all those amazing things - and they ARE INDEED amazing - many of you will have to wait to get home from your public school in order to watch it. She DOES it; some of you can't even LEARN about it in school. As I mentioned the other day, some of you can't even see wikisppaces or even receive email attachments, for crying out loud! She is a walking definition of a "21st Century Learner", yet your school (probably) prohibits you from a) learning about it, and b) DOING it.

Watch this. Are you shaking your head in amazement? Can you hear me screaming?
---

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I'm deeply honored to be on this list

When something like this happens I'm always blown away by it. It's wonderful to be recognized for my efforts on my blog. And, if you're a blogger you know that you don't maintain your blog for any other reason other than you enjoy it. It's a selfish pleasure.

So, when I heard that my blog was mentioned on this list (http://toponlineuniversityreviews.com/2010/top-50-blogs-for-e-learning-tools-and-tips/) I was deeply honored. Did you ever smile so hard that your cheeks hurt? Well, I can tell you that it happened to me when I read that post. My blog is on the list with some WONDERFUL people and excellent blogs. I'm just blown away.

To all those of you who read my blog and have found something of value in it from time to time, thank you SO very much. This is a true honor.

I'm a very lucky man.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Explaining the scream you just heard

You may have read this post (oops - forgot the link in original post) in which I mentioned a website that showed that if you're a person with a Master's Degree in PA you're among the top 10% best educated adults in PA. Keep that in mind as you read on.

I just heard heard tell of a district that not only still blocks Wikispaces (Honestly, I thought we were WAY past that), but they also block all email coming from gmail.com. So, since that's the email that I use, I cannot communicate with any of their teachers. (That was the first scream you heard.)

But the REALLY loud scream that you heard was when I heard of another district that blocks ALL attachments in ALL emails. Their entire Administrative team and all their teachers have to email the sender back and ask for a fax copy. (Pause while YOU scream.)

How does a Superintendent allow that nonsense to persist? How can they function? The folks in the Admin wing, some with Doctoral degrees, I'm certain, are told that they cannot receive attachments in email? ARRRGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!

This is twenty ten, and those folks are being treated like - no, WORSE THAN - children! How many of us could teach in a district like that? It's COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE! Whoever it was who made that decision should be fired immediately, IMHO. Again I'll say, the United States CANNOT AFFORD this kind of UTTER NONSENSE. We MUST be aggressive in how we create educational environments. Not THIS kind of idiocy. Blocking attachments? Disabling right-click and cdrom drives?

ARRRRRGGHHHHHHHHHH!!!

Saturday, January 09, 2010

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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

2010- The future is here

When folks lament to about the fact that blogs and wikis are blocked at school, or that teachers don't have access to youtube for teaching, etc, I always say, "It's not a question of IF they will be unblocked, just WHEN they will be unblocked." And, for some reason, 2010 feels like the year when that will happen.

I think there are lots of reasons for it, too. First, the year itself just sounds… futuristic, doesn't it? Twenty ten. It feels as though the world has come into the age that we've been reading about for so long. "The future is here", sort thing. And with that comes an awakening and a realization that is somehow different from previous years. It's time, now, to act differently. Does anyone else feel that, too?

Another reason that I think this year will mark the year of change for schools is that the current economic slump has shocked folks into an awareness that we're not invincible. We're VERY vulnerable to the effects of global pressures and personal greed, and in this very interconnected world, one person can shock the world's economy into disaster. Who would have thought someone like Bernie Madoff, one man, could cause such total world chaos? Yet, he did, and it is being felt hard in some areas, and it's disaster in others. That kind of event shocks folks into new ways of thinking, and in the world of education I just have a feeling that it's going to mean that folks are going to be more aggressive in how they offer tools and resources to our youth. It's criminal to stand in the way of that, in my humble opinion. (IMHO)

As for those who are blocking blogs, nines, wikis, etc, I really feel that this year - 2010 - will have folks reflecting on those tools a bit more and coming to the conclusion that they're not the evil that they were once perceived to be. In fact, they're becoming rather "old school" - which is when many schools begin to use them. Rather than using tools that are current and exciting, many schools wait until they are past their prime, and then slowly adopt them. That's not to say that blogs have lost their value as a teaching tool. Not at all. There is still real value, I think, in writing for authentic audiences instead of just the teacher. It's just that it's not new and fresh as it once was. Time to adopt. There is NOTHING to be afraid of.

In 2010, if a district doesn't have a filter in place that gives teachers different access from students, then there is something VERY wrong going on there. According to this site teachers in PA with Masters degrees are among the top 10% educated adults in the state. Yet, they are treated with the same disrespect and distrust as the students. The same folks who would be permitted to take 30 students to Europe for a week cannot be trusted to use appropriate youtube videos in class? Nope, I think 2010 will see an end to that insulting practice in MANY MANY districts.

Finally, I (want to) believe that this year will be the year in which teachers face up to their digital illiteracy and begin to do what is necessary to update those skills. No longer will our computer teachers be permitted to purchase textbooks on Powerpoint. That will stop. Instead, those teachers will begin to take seriously the changes in the world that go so far beyond powerpoint, and then they'll begin to build their curriculums around them. Classroom teachers will begin to realize that knowing the url for google doesn't make them computer savvy, and they'll begin to take ownership for their skills and work hard to update them. Librarians, too, will stop worrying solely about the bookshelves and begin to take seriously the idea of information management. The disconnect between the libray and the world will begin to disappear in earnest.

Let's face it, when kids come to school with more technology in their pockets (smartphones) than they access to during their entire day in the classroom, that classroom has become irrelevant. Not the content, but the way in which it is being taught. Some would take issue with that. But, ask yourself this, "If THIS isn't the year that you begin to teach with tools that are current, then when IS? How long can you ignore the realities of technology? Another two years? Five years? Ten?" No, the answer is, you cannot ignore it. Not for another second. It's time to let go of Clarisworks. Let go of animated bulleted PowerPoint. Time to help the students learn to use the tools that will help them learn.

Twenty ten. 2010. It just FEELS like the future, doesn't it? And, it feels like it's going to be exciting.

Image:

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The Future Internet (and a Diigo plug)

Y' know, I just LOVE learning. I learn so much from my PLN every day. Today, for example, I was going through the email from my Diigo groups, and I was pointed to this video (below). In that same email someone had shared this site with a pdf called, "The Complete Guide to Internet Searching", a nice screencast of someone using a Google Form to give a quiz, a site (LoutLit.org) (Fixed - Thanks Mr Oneal :) ) that is "public domain literature paired with high quality audio performances", and MANY more wonderful sites. I LOVE Diigo!

But, this video caught my eye to share it with you, too.  Watch it and see if you aren't blown away by this vision of the Internet. What will it mean to be a digitally literate person THEN? And, will our schools be of ANY value whatsoever in helping our students be ready for this world? (Will they be ALLOWED to?)


Monday, January 04, 2010

The Known Universe - from AMNH

Share this with your science teachers. Maybe it's just me, but this kind of stuff is just So difficult to comprehend. There are a few animations out there that do a nice job in trying to help one grasp the concept of the vastness of space. And, the images from the Hubble spacecraft never cease to boggle my mind. This video, from the American Museum of Natural History, is one that you should see. Share it with your students, too.

The viewer starts at the Himalayan mountains, and then goes further and further into space until.. well, until the distances are no longer meaningful, at least to me. Then it returns. The round trip will SURE to impress.


Saturday, January 02, 2010

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