Saturday, June 26, 2010

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

World Cup and Social Media

On the way to the cabin tonight I heard this story twice:
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=127840329

Why is that interesting? Because it talks about how the World Cup fever is putting pressure on the social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, etc.  So why is THAT interesting? Because I've been trying to send a tweet for the past 30 minutes and it's been too busy - exactly what the article said might happen.

Give it a listen.


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Monday, June 14, 2010

A job well done

OK. It's finished. I finally have the entire web saved as bookmarks in my Diigo account. They're all nicely tagged - even if, perhaps, I've got multiple versions of the same tag. (google earth, googleearth, and google_earth) At least all the sites (up to today) are properly bookmarked. There will no doubt be new sites to bookmark tomorrow. (A teacher's work is never done.)

Yes, I'm being facetious, but stay with me here. I've been eagerly and proudly, and even dutifully finding new websites that do one thing or another, and I've been saving them in my Diigo account. That's just what you do, y' know. But, since I don't have a class of students any more, what is the purpose of this collection? Yes, I can now select a tag and see all the sites I've found that fit that tag, but - then what? And, even if I were a teacher, what good is a list like I've made? Not much good at all, I suspect. Yes, I can share this list with other teachers in the workshops that I do, but somehow it feels like an artificial collection. It has no REAL purpose for being.

But, a classroom teacher wouldn't just be finding sites for the site of the find. A classroom teacher would be bookmarking sites that would help to make that teacher more effective. Right?

I don't know. Maybe this wonderful silence that I've been listening to for the past few hours has gotten to me. (I'm at my cabin and the woods are VERY quiet.) But, suddenly I've begun to question why I'm finding the need to collect all these bookmarks.

Do any of you feel this way from time to time?
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Saturday, June 12, 2010

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Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Ted Talk Tuesdays - revisited

A few days ago I wrote about how a gifted teacher was planning already for next year and how she was going to have Ted Talk Tuesday lunches for her gifted students, etc. I made up the Tuesday part. I have no idea if she's going to have it on Tuesdays or not. But, I've been thinking about it and about how that very good idea could be ramped up a bit.

At first I thought, "After they've watched a few videos and get the hang of it, allow THEM to choose the next one to watch. They would have to introduce it to the others and also tell about the speaker. And they'd have to tell why that video was chosen." Then I thought, "No good, because they'd have to watch so many of them ahead of time and then the event wouldn't be as interesting." Hmmm... OK. NO way around that. So, the teacher will have to choose. But, that said, I'll just BET that the kids will be watching others anyway and suggesting them. Maybe that's the better solution. Let it happen naturally.

Then I got to thinking about something that Joanne Romano, another CFF Mentor, had said. "What if they made their OWN 'Teddie' Talks?" (They'd probably have to use another name, but you get the idea.)  They would have to submit their written speech to have it checked for accuaracy, etc, and then maybe eight would be selected. Make it a challenge to get accepted. Speeches would be written and slides created (NO BULLETS!!!) Then, wouldn't it be great if they'd get to give those speeches in an assembly - or even as an evening event that parents could attend? All the speeches would be filmed and posted to, maybe, the Keystone Commons, or even to the district's own site. The bio's of the speech givers would be withheld unless the parents knew a password or something, if that was a concern. (They don't have a problem with posting images and names of kids playing sports, though.) I'm also thinking that, if these speeches were given during the school day they could be live streamed to other classes around the country. Stay with me here - maybe not the country, but the state. Several teachers doing this and then the top speeches get chosen and could be presented virtually over video conference units, or streamed over the PAIUnet. Or.. I guess that's jumping the gun, isn't it?

Max length of a speech is ten minutes. Max number of presenters in a night is 7 or 8, maybe. The details would be worked out later. I'm just thinking out loud.

Don't you love the idea? Wanna get that started? How can I help? Say the word.


Edit: 6-12-10
I didn't want this buried in the comments. MANY thanks to ATLTeacher who left the following as a comment:
Examples here: http://tedxproject.wordpress.com/
http://teachingwithted.pbworks.com/

MANY thanks to ATLTeacher, first of all. But second, I'm wondering where the heck I've been if I hadn't known about those two great sites before.  Can't wait to share them with the teachers. I'm really hoping someone around here will get this going. I'd LOVE to see it.
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Establish a Culture of Learning With the Faculty

Among the members of your faculty are folks who are currently taking Graduate courses, some even for a Doctoral degree. They are reading current literature on topics ranging from classroom management to school law to technology and resiliency. You also have teachers who are just simply fascinated with technology and the impact it can have on teaching and learning. Still others are reading for pleasure. The sad part is that, in most schools at least, there is nothing in place to help those teachers share what they're learning.

Think about this a minute. What if there was a way to easily share their learning with the rest of the faculty? And, what if that sharing lead to more sharing and discussions at faculty meetings? We're talking about a culture of learning. Those of us on twitter are there for that reason. We enjoy learning from others. We read blogs and follow the links and suggestions of other educators. Why not do that in your own faculty?

What tools would I consider for this? You could certainly use something like Twitter. In fact, once they got into a habit of checking in on twitter every now and again, your faculty might then begin to follow other educators from around the globe, and wouldn't that be wonderful? The only piece to using twitter that would not make it first on my list is that it's difficult to save tweets and refer back to them later. Yes, it can be done, but after a while the tweets just aren't in any sort of manageable format.

You'd have to use something else in addition to twitter - I'm thinking of Diigo, in particular. Imagine having your faculty on Diigo and into various groups according to disciplines or interest. You could have a Science group, and a Math group, etc. You could also have a group called Classroom Management or Tech Ideas, etc. Then, as they happen upon a good website they could bookmark it, tag it, and share it with their group members via the Groups option built into Diigo. The ability to leave notes on a page that other group members can see means that they can discuss their findings with each other - right on the site. What happens, then, is that they're sharing their discoveries with other staff who have the same interest. They're sharing their learning. This would then give them the understanding in order to get their students using the tool, thus creating a culture of learning among your students, as well.

I'm thinking that a Ning site, or its equivalent, might be ideal. There, in a private environment, the staff could share the articles, have discussion posts about them, share photos, share videos that they've found online, and much more. If not Ning, then maybe a site like a Drupal site on your own server might work well with a little planning.

But, the bottom line is that I think the dividends are many from working toward this goal. You've got a building full of educated people. Why not let them share their learning? All buildings seem to have their own 'culture', so to speak. Why not make it a culture of learning and sharing?

Edited 9:36 PM
This isn't a new idea, by any means, and I'm not the first person to say it. But, it's not being done, either. I just talked with a teacher today who made me think about how much we're missing by not learning from each other.

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Sunday, June 06, 2010

I LOVE this idea for using TED in school

Recently, a friend who teaches (soon to retire) in Central York school district in PA, emailed me to tell me about how her Gifted teacher is going to be using TED videos with her students next year.

The teacher will have a weekly Ted Talk Luncheon with the Gifted students. They will bring their lunches to her room and they'll watch a Ted Talk video and discuss it. Now, with so many of the talks being 20 minutes long their discussions can't be very in depth, so I'm betting that she'll set up a Discussion Forum for them to use, as well.

Isn't that a great idea? I love it! Wouldn't it be great if, say, the AP Physics teacher and the Earth Science teacher, and the Social Studies teacher would also do something like this? There are plenty of great videos for each discipline, and they could always show videos from PopTech or Fora.tv, as well.

I love it!

Going One-to-One? Something to consider FIRST

Recently I've been hearing of districts that have either already gone one-to-one or who are in the midst of the planning stages for it. Very exciting news for the students and teachers in those districts, to be sure, and certainly not a decision to be taken lightly, no matter HOW much money your district has.

But, in the cases I've heard there was one very important piece missing from the discussion. There was a lot of talk about what kind of laptop to purchase. Mac or Windows? Laptop or netbook - or even, now, the ipads?There was plenty of consideration given to the network's infrastructure and whether or not it could handle the demands of having every student online at the same time. There was ample discussion about how to handle lost or stolen or broken equipment, and that's absolutely necessary. And, there was plenty of discussion about the logistics of imaging all those laptops and summer procedures, etc. There was even some discussion about whether or not to allow students to put decals on their laptops.

But, in my thinking, the biggest question of all was not asked. And that is, "What does teaching and learning look like in a one-to-one school?" And, there are follow-up questions to that one. Like, "What will it look like if it's successful?", and, "What are the 'look-fors' when observing?"

That leads to another question. Assuming you have an answer to what teaching and learning looks like, and what the 'look-fors' are, then the next question should be, "Is our faculty ready for this?" A corollary to that is, "Does this faculty share our vision?" And, "What skills does our faculty need to have in order to realize the vision of what teaching and learning looks like?" Beyond that is, "How does our Professional development have to change in order to a) get the buy-in to the one-to-one vision, and b) get the teachers the skills they need to facilitate learning in a one-to-one school?"

But, it doesn't stop there. We've now stopped saying that "kids just know this stuff", and we're appreciating the fact that they don't know it, and they need instruction on it. So, once your vision of teaching and learning is solid, and you have an idea of the kinds of assignments and projects your students will be asked to do, then you need to ask the next question, "Where will our students acquire the skills they'll need in order to function at a high level in a one-to-one setting?" What does your "computer curriculum" look like now? Is it Microsoft Office alone? That's not going to be nearly sufficient when you're one-to-one. If the only skill they will need is Office, then your vision isn't an informed one. That would mean that you're going to be seeing a lot of students typing a lot of papers, and if that's all that a one-to-one program is, then save your money. All you'll have is what you already had, but now you'll also have a lot of computers. You're going to need to revamp your Business curriculum in order to teach the skills to the students. Will it be a required course in 9th grade? Should it start in middle school? What exactly ARE the skills they'll need?

So, the questions about logistics are fine, but they're surely not the first questions to ask. Even the question about affordability and sustainability aren't the first questions to ask. Your first questions to ask have to be those that define your goals. If the goals aren't worthwhile, then save the money. But if they are, then do whatever you can in order to make it happen.

I'll pull those questions out of the text - just for convenience. If you're in a one-to-one building or thinking of going in that direction, THESE, I believe, are the questions to ask first.

    1)    What does teaching and learning look like in a one-to-one school? Is that what we want?
    2)    What does it look like if it's successful? What does it look like if it's NOT successful?
    3)    What are our 'look-fors' when observing a classroom in a one-to-one setting?
    4)    Is this faculty ready for the change? Does this faculty share our vision for the desire to move in this direction?
    5)    What skills do the teachers need to have in a one-to-one setting?
    6)    How should our professional development change in order to ensure that they have both the skills with the laptop as well as the understanding of the new pedagogy that is required?
    7)    Where will the students learn the skills they'll need? What exactly are those skills? When will they begin to learn them?

In the next post I'll share my thoughts on what those skills for students and teachers might include.

Edited 6/6//10 11:27 AM
One more thing to ask yourself: Does our school's filtering policy support or interfere with our vision. One district I was in is already in one to one, yet they block Google Docs. Further, they offer no alternative to it. There's one tech person who will be out of a job very soon if that doesn't change - IMHO, at least.
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Saturday, June 05, 2010

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Friday, June 04, 2010

Beyond the mouse-driven computer interface

A comment in a recent post about a writing prompt idea expressed concern that we're inviting students to take a stand on a topic. I hadn't thought of that before. Perhaps writing prompts should be more neutral. Interesting enough to encourage discussion but not so controversial or volatile in nature as to create sides. We've certainly got enough of that in too many places in this world.

So, with that in mind I'll share this recent TED video that shows a new kind of computer interface. Certainly this will interest the techie kinds of students, but others may find this idea having applications in other areas of life, from medicine to entertainment.

Check this out. No mouse. No keyboard. Instead, a gloved hand. Beyond the immediate and perhaps obvious uses for this kind of system, what other areas can benefit from it? Does it have applications for business? What about our need to create documents. This is fine for manipulating existing files, but what about creating them? If this catches on will the mouse disappear? Lots of questions.