Thursday, November 30, 2006

Podcast with Terry Freedman

I had the privilege of interviewing Terry Freedman about the upcoming second edition of Coming of Age.

You can listen to the podcast here

Here are some links re the show.

Terry's site about Coming of Age (first edition)

Blog with information on the upcoming second edition

Also of interest is Terry's presentation on the K12 Online Conference
Selling Web 2.0 to Senior Management

I'm looking forward to seeing the second edition. The first was great!

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Saturday, October 28, 2006

K12 Online and controversy

I have been following some of the controversy around the K12 Online Conference
and have been thinking a lot about what Stephen Downes has been writing. My feeling is that one has to weigh the positives and negatives. Nothing in this world is pure any more. I understand his feeling that associating with a company may taint the speakers. However, I also know that there are many people who never get to conferences (and there is nothing quite as commercial as NECC - quite a shock the first time there). This online conference is giving access to a community and to information that may be hard for newcomers to find. It is giving people opportunities to listen / watch and decide who they wish to continue following and the great show notes give links so that people can decide who to add to their blog reads. I have not had a chance to listen to all the presentations, but I have been struck by the generosity of people who freely publish their contact information and offer help to one and all. Yes - there are probably some presenters who are involved to publicize themselves. But the majority of what I have heard just really want to share.

We are surrounded by commercialism in North America. Let's trust that most of us as educators are aware of this. In fact this is on all our agendas when we teach about literacy. Who owns the site? How does that taint the information? How do we know this information is valid? We are teaching students to be careful, judicious consumers of information. I would hope that we approach this conference, or any conference with the same wariness.

As someone who often works with teachers, this conference has provided me with a one-stop place to point some teachers to so they can be introduced to Web 2.0. I love what Jeff Utecht is doing with his LAN parties and only wish Shanghai were not so far away. Since when have people had parties around thinking about education?

There is a buzz of people who are building networks to foster their own learning. I, for one, am grateful to all those who share online.

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Sunday, October 15, 2006


I'm sitting in Prince Edward Island, visiting a friend (dialup only) and thinking about how interconnected we all are. Even with dialup I was able to listen to the Women of Web 2.0 webcast from World Bridges, follow the chat, chat on Skype with someone else, check my e-mails, read a few blogs (OK - only a few - I'm supposed to be on vacation). Tomorrow, I'll meet some people I only know through my online reading and listening and yet, I feel I will be meeting people I already know. That sense of community, of being part of something is quite amazing. Together people are building community for themselves and for their students. Something powerful is happening.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Podcast with Darren Kuropatwa

This is the first in a series of podcasts being done for LEARN. It is an interview with Darren Kuropatwa about the upcoming K12Online Conference.

Listen to the podcast here:

Show Notes

K12 Online Conference
Don't forget if you blog the conference to tag your post as k12online or K12online06

Darren Kuropatwa's blog:
A Difference
Inspiration for the conference came from the
Higher EdBlogCon Conference


David Warlick's
David Warlick's podcasts
Bud Hunt's blog
Ewan McIntosh's blog
Anne Davis' blog

From Anne Davis' blog:
Seize the Time
The Thinking Stick
Jeff Utecht

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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Best Practice

David Warlick blogged about best practices - what are they and who defines them as such. I really liked Terry Freedman's response
The very concept of “best practice” is flawed: best practice for whom? Who says it’s “best” practice? In the UK we (ie the educational tech community, including government agencies, have moved away from highlighting so-called best practice and towards interesting practice. What can I, for example, take from watching you and bring back to my own school? What works for you may not work in my context — but there may be one or two ideas I can adapt, if not adopt.
What is really important is the notion of sharing. So many teachers still teach in classrooms with the doors closed, not welcoming collaboration. David Warlick has also been talking about designing a new school. I think a crucial aspect has to be time. Give teachers the time to prepare and to talk together about pedagogy. Overload is a serious issue.

I have a particular concern for my home turf.

In the province of Quebec there is a shortage of math teachers among others. People are being hired to teach who have the content background but not the teacher training. I really wonder if we will see any best practices coming out of those teachers or if they will turn to "chalk and talk" as their method of delivery. I hope they will be getting inservice and will truly become teachers and not just content deliverers.

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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

K12 Online 2006

I am very excited about the upcoming K12 Online 2006 conference and would encourage people to take part. I will certainly set aside some time to participate. I had the pleasure of meeting Darren this summer and know that anything he does will be done well.
Here are some highlights from Darren's post about the conference:

Announcing the first annual “K12 Online 2006″ convention for teachers, administrators and educators around the world interested in the use of Web 2.0 tools in classrooms and professional practice. This year’s conference is scheduled to be held over two weeks, Oct. 23-27 and Oct. 30- Nov. 3 with the theme “Unleashing the Potential.” A call for proposals is below.

There will be four “conference strands”– two each week. Two presentations will be published in each strand each day, Monday - Friday, so four new presentations will be available each day over the course of the two-weeks. Each presentation will be given in podcast or screencast format and released via the conference blog (URL: TBA) and archived for posterity.


Week 1

Strand A: A Week In The Classroom
Strand B: Basic/Advanced Training (one of each per day)

Week 2

Strand A: Personal Professional Development
Strand B: Overcoming Obstacles

So far there will be keynotes by
Bud Hunt, Ewan McIntosh, Anne Davis

Anyone interested in presenting should get in touch with Darren Kuropatwa Sheryl Nusbaum-Beach or Will Richardson

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Sunday, August 27, 2006

For Librarians

Should there be any librarians reading this blog, I thought I would share this. Joyce Valenza a librarian I was fortunate to meet in Boston has been doing a lot of thinking about how new technologies are changing and will change how libraries function. At this site she also explores the implications of the changes. It's well worth reading. (via Will Richardson) As David Warlick says - Shift Happens. Let's make sure we understand what and how things are shifting.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

What is happening with blogs?

I just finished listening to Miguel Guhlin's podcast with a group of teachers who are using blogs with their students. It takes about an hour but is worth listening to. One thing that really comes through is the social aspect of learning - how important it is to learn through conversation or written feedback. The students were motivated to write because they had a real audience, but they were also interested in reading what other students wrote and commenting on their writing.
Another important issue that came out of the podcast is the ongoing learning for the teachers. They, too, are reading blogs, learning from others in the field and reflecting on their own practice. This has certainly been the case for me and I thank all who are sharing.

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Code of Ethics

When I worked in a school we had an acceptable use policy. It was quite simple - statements about taking care of hardware, respecting people etc. Today I read one on David Warlick's blog. It is much more complex but included some interesting ideas. First of all it states that ethical teachers and students..... I like the document addresses all the school users, that students can see that they are held to the same standard as their teachers.
Included in the statements about using information respectfully and citing sources were
"Tell the story of the human experience boldly, even when it is unpopular to do so.
Examine your own cultural values and avoid imposing those values on others. "
Those are important messages to give students. It's about thinking and not parroting. It's about the responsibility to be thinking citizens who think beyond oneself and one's own needs. The AUP becomes an ethical statement that goes way beyond the use of school equipment. I like it!

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Monday, August 14, 2006

My new Tune Talk

I spent most of last week at a literacy workshop for teachers, consultants, librarians.... I brought my new Tune Talk mic by Belkin with me and am now working on editing some podcasts which will include some of the snippets I recorded. I'm learning. I discovered (I'm not a good manual reader) that I have to be quite close to the speaker to get a good sound level. But on the whole, I am delighted with the quality. I'll have to play around some more. More podcasts in my future.

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Thursday, August 10, 2006

Introducing Teachers to Blogs

How do you get teachers excited about learning? about joining a community of learners? Teachers have so many pulls on their time from the demands of the students to the demands of the administration. Whenever I introduce blogging to teachers i always get someone who says - not another thing to check, another thing to read. How can I get them to see the power, the energy you get from being part of a community of learners?

Some of them "get it" and see the connections to what they could do with their students. And they see how easy it is to use the blogging tools. There is a sense of "I can do this". Slowly teachers will move out of their closed-door classrooms and enter the community. I just did some workshops for language arts teachers and got some aha's! One teacher even saw how she could use a bulletin board blog (not enough computers available for the real thing) to start discussion and writing within her classroom. A blog made concrete. The important thing is starting conversation.

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Monday, July 31, 2006

Social computing?

I have moments when I feel very anti-social towards social computing. A couple of days away from my computer and the number of blog entries to read has multiplied at an alarming rate. It's summer, but everyone's brains have forgotten to take a vacation. After going to BLC I vowed to pare down my list of subscriptions. I have put in hours, making decisions, cutting out blogs that I haven't gotten around to reading, but still the number of unread entries is way too high. There's not a lot social about sitting glued to the computer. But oh, it is so adictive.

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Saturday, July 29, 2006

Sara Kajder

I have been involved in giving workshops on digital storytelling, but it is always interesting to see how others approach the subject. I am pulled by the purists who talk about personal narrative and have seen some compelling stories created by young children through to adults. Sara Kajder spoke about personal narrative as well as about some online tools for creating digital stories.

session notes:
Digital Storytelling

2 essential questions - What are the unique capacities and limits of this tool?
How does this tool allow us to do something better?

Content -- Communicate -- Create

Narrative Inquiry - A fusing of research and storytelling practice which results in a product that tells a story of how individuals understand their actions, experiences, environment and culture

using the pieces of our lives to see what really matters.

Sara Kajder has a recent book Bringing the Outside In There is a support web site

stories structure the meanings of culture

We as members of communities have social networks - digitial story -
pbs - The civil war - images of the civil war

Create a document of lives lived.
Redheads: A digital story - by a 3rd grade teacher You can see it on the site.

What are the elements of a digital story?

point of view
dramatic question

A reflective component - take a look at the past - who we were and who we want to become
Connect to - this is not a place to do a book report - you can make digital book reports, but that is not a digital story
Dramatic - the good ones are raw
Opening a door that is uncomfortable
Have to care about what they are writing
Soundtrack - this is just the icing - lyrics will run counter to student's voice
Economy - affects only to convey narrative meaning
Pacing - stories breathe if they are written well - the students need to learn how to unpack something

Scripts are written on the front of a 3x5 or 4x6 card because words are only 1 element

Steps of construction

- pre-writing "What do I have to say?
- artifact search (visual elements)
- draft of script , storyboard
- script-sharing circle (critical English teaching part, read aloud (used Skype to have other people present but it didn't work as well as face to face feedback) sometimes gets in other adult help) Students taught to preface feedback "If it were my story I would....)
- script revision
-construction (1 day in lab ) - first get down images. Bells and whistles , transitions are absolutely the last record narration 1 -2 sentences at a time.
- screening, viewing and discussion - invite everyone who can breathe - movie makers get a pat on the back, discussion is important too)

If people aren't taught the language of sound and images, shouldn't they be considered as illiterate as if they left college without being able to read and write.

Online programs
Bubble Share
Eyespot does not allow for as much audio control
jumpcut - any user can post video and films - not a safe place
opsound - metasite to upload their own musical content and get safe music

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Andy Hargreaves Sustainable Leadership

Last night I went to see "An Inconvenient Truth" - Al Gore's movie on global warming. The message is clear and straightforward - we all have to contribute to the solution. But there is a solution. We have to move from a "me" society to a "we " society. Until we see that our actions and those of others have effects far beyond our immediate vicinity, we will not change. Andy Hargreaves also talked about social responsibility - how a sustainable school is one which is in harmony with its surroundings. Magnet schools, private schools, etc. afffect not only those who attend them but also those who don't . We have to start working together for change.

Notes from the session:
Professor at Boston College
His powerpoint is available at his site. He did not show most of the Powerpoint but it is an excellent reference.

Andy Hargreaves is a passionate and eloquent speaker.

Links between professional learning communities
moving into the age of post-standardization
Spenser Foundation -- looking at 8 secondary schools in Canada and US - looking at change - followed over 30 years

work in UK - has left behind the age of standardization (as have most of Canada, Australia, Singapore and even Japan)
building on positive peer pressure rather than fear and compliance
America is conlonizing the model that most English-speaking nations are leaving behind
have to equip ourselves as educators
how do you lose your integrity? how do you lose your moral way?
Ian McKuen - The Innocent - character makes tiny shifts step--by-step, each of which make sense in relationship to the last one but the whole do not make sense and he finds himself way over his head. He lost his moral core - not by big dramatic moments, but by small adjestments and suddenly finds himself in a place he should not be. We have to be sure this does not happen to us, that we do not lose our integrity.

What is unsustainable - American policy
What is sustainablity? not only whether it can last but also without compromising the development of others in the surrounding environment, now and in the future. (also about social justice)

What is the oppositie? unsustainability?
imposed short-term targets
In the UK, targets in literacy and numberacy failed miserable (National Literacy Standards). What improvements there were were due to test items being made easier.

What does a sustainable company look like -
  • Put purpose before profit
  • Start slowly, advance persistently
  • Do not depend on a single, visionary leader

In US - what is happening?

focusing on reading and math at expense of the arts and other "frills"
focusing on the 20% just below passing to make test scores look better
rates of literacy go up but rates of reading for pleasure go down

Schools are becoming the Enron of education

What is sustainable leadership?
- 7 principles
1) Depth (it matters)

Learning leads to Achievement leads to testing
NOT data driven instruction Testing leads to achievement leads to learning
We need evidence informed practice. The first year things may get worse but in the 2nd year it starts to get better and continues to.

2) Endurance (it lasts)

Sustainable leadership - few things succeed less than leadership succession. - your best legacy is in principles, practices and people
All school improvement plans should have succession plans - where the school is, where it is going, what kind of leadership it needs
- professional learning communities
from slide - Professional learning communities

Transform knowledge
Shared enquiry
Evidence informed
Situated certainty

3) Breadth (it spreads)

distributed and shared leadership
veteran dominated leadership is exclusionary - does not give space to young
novice dominated leadership - driven by enthusiasm rather than expertise - leads to burnout
Best culture is a blend of older and younger
provides mentoring
reciprocal learning

4) Justice (it does not harm the surrounding environment)

5)Diversity (it promotes diversity and conhesion)

respond to changes - in the environment
network schools together
peer support and positive peer pressure

You learn more from people who are different from you, than ones who are the same

6) Resourcefulness (it conserves expenditure)

7) Conservation (it honours the past in creating the future)

From the Powerpoint:
Leaders of sustaining learning:
  • Passionately advocate and defend deep learning for all students
  • Combine and commit to old and new basics
  • Put learning, before achievement, before testing
  • Make learning the paramount priority
  • Become more knowledgeable about learning
  • Make learning transparent
  • Be omnipresent witnesses to learning
  • Practise evidence-informed, inquiry-based leadership
  • Promote assessment for learning
  • Engage students in decisions about their learning
  • Involve parents in their children’s learning
  • Model effective adult learning
  • Create the emotional conditions for learning
Hargreaves & Fink, 2006

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Friday, July 28, 2006

Bob Pearlman

Bob Pearlman is a good speaker. He described his work with the New Technology High School. Much of the approach sounds very much like the Quebec Education Program. You can read an article by Bob Pearlman at Edutopia. He echos the writing of Thomas Friedman in talking of how the world has changed and we need to prepare our students for that new reality. My question is - how do we get teachers to change? Bob talks about revamping schools, but I find schools to be firmly entrenched in keeping the status quo.

Notes on the session:
Getting and Assessing 21st Century Knowledge and Skills

Presentation posted at

Results that Matter -
Standards that are being tested are low level - need not only content knowledge -

SCANS US Dept of necessary skills 1992

These are the CCCs in the QEP (Quebec Education Program)
Assessment is the key (not for accountability purposes) assessment for learning
just in time assessment - to be in charge of their own learnng

At the core is a student centered, project and problem based teachig strategy that is tied to both content standards and school wide learning outcomes
Teachers start each unit by throwing students into a realistic or real-world project that both engages interest and generates a list of things that student need to know. Projects are designed to tackle complex problems, requiring critical thinking.

Project and
to learn collaboration, work in teams
to learn critical thinking, take on complex problems
to learn oral communication ,present
to learn written communication, write (all kinds - memos, business plans, reports)
to learn technology, use technology
to develop citizenship, take on civic and global issues
to lern about careers, do internships
to learn content, research and do all of the

project - 2-8 weeks long
Students form a team, develop a work contract - build a work plan
online briefcase - assessment criteria

teacher facilitates a dialogue - what do you need to know, how are you going to find that out,
students experiment, apply learning, get to work and collaborate
build presentation - rehearse, present, to authentic audience (who judge - act like a jury and hammer kids with questions)
- can't cheat in this context

When project over - write a reflection - what they learned, assess peers on collaboration skills

PBL example

President's dilemma
get a letter - you are my council of economic advisors. Oil prices are going up, popularity going down. I need a report in 15 days
(need to learn about oil,....)

Students are ocommisioned by TOYCO and NASA to create or modify games played on earth to work on Lunar colonies. Using Newton's laws design games that work on the moon

Together we stand
prepare a museum exhibit (images, stories, ....)

The Buck Institute for Education
The project-based learning handbook

Embedded in projects
management, temawork, oral communication, assessment and feedback for students

Have to design project to have multiple deadlines (sub-assignments - interrum benchmarks, process documents - scaffolding )
provide checkpoints
proposals, outlines, plans, blueprints, drafts, edit drafts, models, revised drafts, product critiques,.....)

Process - group work contracts, roles and duties of group members, student generated task or "to do" lists, project calendar, group progress reports, student time cards)
pressure coming from peers not teacher - develop project calendar,

Develop Assessment
Design rubrics for content AND broader learning outcomes
Rubrics should articulate the various performance levels.
Rubrics MUST be handed out in the early stages of the project when they can be used to set expectations.

Rubrics are for students not for teacher - what are key criteria? what constitutes basic work and more advanced?

New Technology High

1;1 computer ratio

integrating technology into every class
interdisciplinary and project-based
internship class consisting of classroom curriculum and unpaid work in technology , buisiness or education
Digital Portfolio
You can learn more about their computerized learning system (digital portfolio, etc.) here.

New Technology HS Learning Outcomes

Technology Literacy
Critical Thinking
Oral Communication
Written Communication
Career Preparation
Citizenship and Ethics
Curricular Literacy (Content Standards)

the Big Picture

How can we help students stay on task?
Course calendar (click on any day and gives detail)
- accessible from home or school and to parents with a secure password
How can we beter hold students accountable for their collaboration skills while working in a group?
- teamwork evaluation database - created a rubric - online tool - fill out on each of peers. Over time you can start to map your own scores. Data is available to put in your portfolio
How can we capture evidence of oral presentation - rubric - presentation evaluation database - accessible by students as evidence of performance

How can we give students and parents clear feedback on student performance that better reflects our authentic assessment practices?
Grades broken down - work ethic, social studeis content, collaboration , presentaiton skills, english literature content, writing mechanics, critical thinking, senior project (whatever is relevant to the project)

Grade Portal - the grade book they have created - it is a living report card - available any day of the week. Only finalized at end of term. Students can check at any point and see where work is needed.

Students make professional portfolios
use it to get a summer job, and for applying to college

Curriculum library
digital portfolio
NTHS Gradebook
Collaborative Evaluator

June Edutopia - New Skills for a New Century

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Darren Kuropatwa took us on a whirlwind tour of web 2.0 tools. Ten minutes per tool

Fortunately there is a wiki to support the workshop so I did not take as many notes. I have admired the work that Darren has done with his students in Winnipeg. His student blogs on mathematics are a model to follow as is his exploration of wikis with his students.

Here are a few notes:

Furl - 5GB storage space

copies the web (text and links) and saves a personal copy of the page for you.
Furl mates - what are other people saving

Feed windows - getting information automatically from other places.
It would be nice to have a Hitchhikr for specific content areas or specific topics. That way you could automatically bring in tagged articles with a specific subject (e.g. JaneAusten NCLB) This can bring in different points of view for your students to explore. You can create feed windows with feeds from different newspapers to read the current stories from different points of view.

Darren shared 3 feed windows.
Feed windows -
You can see samples of how they look on the wiki.

If you want to know how teachers are using wikis - look at Darren's list here:

The last section of the talk dealt with the cool and ubercool tools that are available. Have a look A number of people have been promoting Flock as the best browser available. It is Mozilla based and has many built in features. (Windows, Mac Linux). Explore the tools - the future is exciting. But be careful you may get whiplash.....

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Alan November

Alan November tried to address what are the problems of today - how can we shift from planning for technology to the quality and application of information and communication. He touched on how the teacher's role has to change. An interesting issue was the notion that schools are going to have to service families more. In particular, with the changing of jobs, adults will need frequent retraining. People who have had bad school experiences are going to have to be lured into schools for positive experiences.

In the US there needs to be more attention to all aspects of the child. Education without decent health care and living space can change little. I am fortunate to live in Canada where health care, at least, is addressed.

Session notes:
What is the compelling problem?

Why are companies no longer funding education? "Why would we fund public education when we can hire engineers overseas? " Up until now you had to fund your own country.

Peter Swartz - The Art of the Long View
using scenarios He worked for Royal Dutch Shell - when oil embargo hit the company
The world is undergoing unheaval and we are trying to fix the current reality.
Stanford University is offering Virtual High School - $12000 / year. - how can you compete with that?

Every library should become an online learning centre -
We have not made tan overwhelming case for technology

If you build scenarios, than compare it to what you have at the moment. The pressure to change is close - no change and then a cataclysmic event (9/11). Process engineering - looking at why things are done and is there a better way to do it? Incentives to change don't exist in education (no competition). should go out into the real world - what are the conversations (internal, customers/suppliers,) apply to education system - what are your relationships with the families. Communications technologies. If we compared education to companies - big gap. Best practices not necessarily in the field you work in. We are used to comparing education against other education settings. Need to look at vision and mission.

Airforce academy hires every student they teach. Measure quality years after graduation. Education measures quality at the moment of the last test. Should be looking at long term - how did we prepare students? Training - asked CEO of HSBC - what are the most important skills - empathy because we operate world wide we need people who understand a different cultural point of view. Passion (Marco taps into empathy and passion).

Have to end technology planning - we need learning results planning. Need to take technology out of title. You are viewed differently if you come as a technology person or as a "empathy and passion" coordinator.

Job description of a learner - who owns the learning. Shift ownership to the students. It is happening despite schools. What are the ways we can get students to own learning - give them real jobs (e.g. I need a podcasting team for the school). Teachers have to know what a podcast is - needs students who know how to do it. No more staff development unless every teacher brings 2 kids with her. What do kids think is important?
Must put a team of children together to put together a code of ethics. The kids must own the code of ethics. It is now greater than AUP. Code of ethics is to protect kids when they are not in school. Role of the child is to help parents. Have to ramp up on family engagement. (In Kansas - producing math videos to help parents) - take advantage of all those colour TVs and DVD machines. Kid videos on how to help parents help learning at home. Reexamine relationship betwwen school at home. Research says family involvement is a huge predictor of student success.

Students can research teacher websites and bring them to the teachers. You have to know what your competition is doing. Do your teachers know who the best teachers are in their field? When the teacher in the room gives assessment - it is harder. Students in IB program more willing to accept criticism when it comes back from unknown marker. Need every teacher to join a learning community - an international community - then creating authentic audience. Students need authentic audience.

New job description of teachers (need to rewrite job description of the family, the learner)
-extend the boundary of social discourse beyond the classroom
- comprehensively manage services across ... (in England - education, social services, medical services)
You have to find real problems in the world and base your curriculum on real problems.

We need to extend our top performing students much higher. Bringing the bottom up leads to mediocrity. We need more gaps across the board. The people who can afford it have bought out of NCLB.

Work on job descriptions
students, teachers, families, leaders - need a mix of all people in each group to do this.
Create a protocol for observations to benchmark other professions (is there a gap between the world we are sending students to and what we are preparing them for?)
Re-engineering of quality control with families. Can take advantage of technology to engage families. Invest in every home, especially in low socio-economic areas. In UK - have picked the most poverty stricken areas and are putting computers into homes. Will be more in family-education business. If we change the family it impacts the child.

By blocking cell phones, iPods.... we are preventing students from thinking about these devices in creative ways. Every school needs a student team to meet monthly (not in leader's office) what are you doing outside of school? what do you hate the most? make link between the outside and what you hate.
Every leader should have a blog.

Every family have a blog. Every teacher will blog. RSS will bring all relevant content to blog. Empower every family with RSS feeds with connection to all teachers. It's not about technology planning. it's about redescribing jobs......

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Building Learning Communities

Started July 18 - completed July 25.

I have only been at this conference for a day and I am very impressed. There are only about 300 people here, which means that you actually get to see the same people over again and continue conversations started earlier. A reception held yesterday allowed people to meet each other and talk. Alan makes sure he talks to everyone and truly wants to encourage community building. I remember Frank Greene, who taught at McGill, saying that when you go to a conference - walk the floors. Meet people. Alan November just said that it's not the sessions that are important, it's the conversations.

July 25 - the conversations were great - and so were the sessions. But it's that lasting impression of being part of a buzz, part of a larger community that is buzzing. Will Richardson talks about the education he has had through his years of blogging and I have to agree. But what is so special is that the education is not just one way. You read, reflect and really think deeply about the ideas. It's much better than any university course I ever sat through. And how do we get students involved and excited about this kind of conversation? Learning is heady, exciting, especially when the learner is constructing his/her own understanding of ideas and issues. What is astounding is how supportive this community is. We scaffold on each others' learning to build something better. It is not about competition.

Oh that the world could learn to work that way......

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Marco Torres

Marco Torres is a powerful presenter. He speaks with passion and spreads his compassion. It would be impossible not to be touched by his stories. You can read more about him here.

Session notes:
Marco Torres from Los Angeles. He showed "When I become a teacher..." - San Fernando. Students mainly Mexican (Aztec). Two cultures - gangs and folklore. He wanted students to understand their culture and population. They took census data and plotted Latino population on a map. Also looked at where poverty was and then people without a college diploma. It was quite telling. It gave the students a good idea of how poverty and lack of education go together.

There are about 5000 students in the school. 56% turnover rate with students and about 36% of teacher turnover. Use limitations to the advantage. 26 letters, 10 numbers, 12 keys on the piano, 116 elements, 3 colours - look what we can build.
He sent kids out to collect data during the walkouts. Their footage and

Traditional communication

Traditional Now
text see hear

Images are extremely important. Peru Negro (there is an area in Peru where a lot of slaves from Columbia moved in. This group is from that group) - hit the college circuit (music) when he saw them he realized the CD is not the right channel for them. Video would be better. He called he band and offered the students to video and would give footage to the band. We listened with our eyes closed and then watched the movie the students made.When the students gave the video to the group - they had a video they could use - were then able to get money to make a documentary and they hired 3 students to travel with them to make the documentary.

School holds a film festival every year. They made a TV commercial to advertise the film festival. iCan film festival. After the commercial audience went from 200 people to over 1000 people. You can see a lot of the films at SFETT You have to see them; talking about them doesn't do them justice.

Language Creativity, Self Esteem & Multimedia.
Marco Torres is a social studies teacher not a media or film-making teacher. He tries to teach them the language of media. School made everyone assign a 15 page paper. He assigned a movie - deliver the importance of voting. Power of 1 The makers got hired by MTV. A very powerful piece about how many world events were decided by one vote.

The Story of Little Suck a Thumb (HS kids went into elementary school to make fiml of stories written by ES students. He sent the students to the library to find the worst children's story first and made a quick movie) Then they made the movies for the grade 4 children.

Be distinct or be extinct! Edna Mole (the Incredibles)
A year round school so no opportunities for summer camp or sumer jobs.
Being Creative: Learning to solve problems

Perspective - changes how you react to a situation. If he saw himself only as a social studies teacher it would be limiting.

Barrier - Obstacle - it can be a barrier
Make it relevant, meaningfull applicable, enthralling
With technology you can connect more with people. His students haven't left community but can communicate with the world. - his kids are publishers

First barrier - self-esteem. He wants to make sure they are patted on the back as much as possible. Connected his kids to little kids. 4th grader wrote story - instead of using fancy tricks - went for simple.
Fortunately..... did about 45 films which were shown at the local library for the parents of the students of both the 4th graders and the HS students. DVD made for all families. Grade 4 students certainly looked up to HS kids. Publishing for a larger audience.

Communicate with family - a lot of projects where they interview family members. Capturing stories. OUr stories are just as important as formal history. When showing at the film festival - standing ovations. A lot of affirmation for the students. The student's grandfather passed away but still have the film footage and preserve an important part of the culture and the history of the kids.

Connecting student to the immediate community. In the community there are many people without children - wanted to include them. Made a movie of who makes the best tacos. Put fliers in all the taco shops.
Best Taco in San Fernando - interviewed owners of taco shops - gave copy of video to taco videos. The video was shown on community television.

Connecting student to community - a lot of kids came to US as kids without parents. They are raised by friends of the family, siblings, grandparents.
He wanted to make sure the kids were not just statistics at the school. This year music has been important. He has some background in recording. Relationship of his students and some rappers in Belgium
&Drew and LeFic -
Kids are producing a lot of CDs. They give his CDs

Seat belt winner - he wants to make sure that his kids are producing things so different that they are noticed - creativity plan
17000 entries - 6 of top 15 from his class.

Embrace Obstacles
Relevant Meaningful Applicatble
Create a business plan

Record a band and make a business plan for them
Built a web site for the band, started a MySpace account
snuck into battle of the bands with small cameras - made a gritty video
Real economics business plan - not artificial
One of the DVDs got in the hands of Christopher Nolan. The music was used in a triler for Batman movie
The band got a contract because of this - bought a car

Frankie and Rachel
Adrian is a good hip hop rapper (keeps all local musicians in a database so they can use them for movies
Dreams - got in the hands of other rapper and they invited him to rap with them.

David Pena - mariachi - recompose the star wars songs in mariachi style The theme of the film festival Reurn of iCan - When John Williams heard it he wrote to David and sent him a signed score of the original Star Wars

When you put the family in the movie the parents and extended famiy show up to the festival. Have outgrown several venues.

embrace your obstacles (Be a snowboarder)
Make it relevant
Make it meanignful
Make it applicable

Infect Others with Curiosity

Do important work, valuable work, liberating work

Take 2: I went to the "after the keynote session"
A group of his students went to college and thought they would get even better than what was in the ghetto.
Being digital in an analog world (hard to pay attention - lectures for visual people - teaching today using yesterday's tools This is an amazing piece of work. This was done by his former students in different universities who planned the whole movie using iChat, planned the kinds of shots they needed, edited, etc. without meeting face-to-face.

One way and that's the way you have to do it. - real time learners
"The jobs that colleges are preparing us for are being outsourced now, We have to teach kids to advocate

In a school where he doesn't recognize staff because of the constant turnover
He created a team - only 6 left.

Students - because of planning structure, the sudents write a lot more. - they just don't realize this.

Every project he showed was done in a day - quick victory builds will.
What would make it boring - try not to do that. Build story boards
Marco has created a series of podcasts (and vodcasts) with his students: You can find some how-tos, tips etc.
find experts - create a network so you can get on iChat to help each other.

When a student was asked why he makes videos he said, because my mouth doesn't do my mind justice.
We have to provide the right channels for our students to get their voices heard.

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RSS, podcasting- Will Richardson

A full day workshop needs more than one blog item. In the afternoon we whizzed through RSS, podcasting.... The important message is that this will engage students, give authentic audiences, bring in authentic up-to-date materials for critical thinking. How do we engage the teachers?

Real Simple Syndication - feeds of information can go to an aggregator. If you want to search on Google for a feed, you can add RSS to your search. e.g. New York Times RSS. You can also see the sign on the site that there is a feed.

Aggregator - It is easy to set up. (The bigger problem is that you soon have way too much to read!).

Flickr - photo feed
can subscribe to photos on a particular topic
In can find articles on a particular topic - can subscribe
Can find others who are reading on a topic. Can go to an individual. You can then subscribe to that individual's list on that topic. You can have researchers 24/7 just by subscribing to what they are reading. Tagging on a social site because we want to share it.

You can really mine the intellectual prowess of other people to inform your own practice.

You can take RSS feeds and put them together (mashups) in a web page to share with others.

Feed2JS - if you have a static web page into which you want to bring RSS content. Put in the feed address. Generate the javascript. You can aggregate content on a page on a particular topic. You can follow your eBay auctions, track packages.....

You should check your bloglines account daily. You can create your own newspaper e.g. education feed from NY Times, science feed from CBC, music from

When working with kids - use Furl - Furl saves a picture of the page. If the page goes, the document is still there. You can also create citations with Furl in MLA, Chicago, and APA.

Podcasting - much more than recording audio
Room 208 Bob Sprankle in Maine
Radio Willow Web - Tony Vincent
Mabryonline Tyson

1. Have to be able to record audio - Audacity (if you don't have a Mac with Garageband) You also need the lame encoder. That's what will allow you to export as mp3

2. Need a way to edit audio (same software)

can bring in another track

3. Publish as an mp3 file
4. Get mp3 file onto a server that creates a link to it.

You can upload to (free) - they will give you the link. You can then link it to your blog.

5. A podcast is a series - that can be subscribed to

At podcasts - submit a podcast

Odeo - login and odeo will allow you to record through the web interface. This is a quick a dirty way - it gives you a link. It gives you a piece of code that you can paste into your blog.

Camtasia - easy video editing software will create video iPod format. (not free)
Screencasting - capture screen while you are talking - windows media encoder (PC only)

How do we get teachers enthusiastic about these technologies?
...small steps

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Monday, July 17, 2006

Will Richardson on wikis and blogs

Wikis are for content - blogs are for conversation.

pbwiki - peanut butter wiki

You need to know how to use the discussions the editing and history. You can find Will Richardson's wiki at To learn more about wikis click on the wiki section.

High School collaborative writing
All can contribute to specific articles. Teacher put in a template e.g. State your first reason, state your second reason, I...

You can use a wiki for projects that are much bigger than your classroom wikiville -
You can explore the other links from Will's site.

Can have a wiki only visible to members, only editable by members - there are various levels of security. Collaboration needs to be done assyncronously.
With pbwiki you have 1GB of space. We learned to create a wiki. pbwiki automatically has Google ads.
A wiki could be used as a portfolio.
Blogs are for conversations. - give you a media wiki with your blog. Media wiki is a little more powerful than pbwiki. pbwiki is looking for feedback from educators - so you can send in suggestions.

Blogs can be used for many purposes. The "blog snob" answer - to do something I can not do on paper. A different genre of writing - the ability to link and the ability to connect - Connected Writing. Blogging is intellectual sweat - about thinking. The real benefit of using a blog is to connect to others. If you really want to engage your ideas and the ideas of others and to start writing in depth - blogging is the way to go. Blogging does not start with writing. it starts with reading. Journalling starts with writing.
It is a process - read - thinking about what you are reading in one's own context. If it's important, create a post - here's what I read, here's what I think. and implicit in that is - give me feedback. Writing for an audience, making thinking transparent. A post may be a synthesis of a number of ideas. Will talked about having a real sense of ownership of his blog. If he is going to write a comment, he leaves a comment with the link to the full reflection on his blog.

Kuropatwa - scribe posts. His students are teaching others - they get more hits from outside the class than from within. - simple solution - wordpress blogs

The workshop went on creating a blog with nlcommunities. This is a nice software. If you want other teachers to post to your blog, they have to be members of nlcommunities. Once they are members, you can create a group block with multiple authors. There are some nice features.

To become a more public blogger - go to other blogs and leave a message - I posted a comment on my blog. Write the responses. You have to become a blog reader. If you know some bloggers with a high profile, send them links. There are people out there who will read your stuff. But don't get discouraged. A small community of practice / of learning can lead to some excellent discussion.

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Will Richardson - On-line communities: Blogs, wikis and other cool tools

Here I am in the Alan November conference - 5 hours with Will Richardson. Lucky me. I'm jealous - he has an iTrip on his iPod so this session or parts of it may be available later. When is the one for the video iPod going to be ready? - -

I am now writing on July 25 - going over my notes and polishing what's here. AND I now have my new mic for my video iPod! Will took us on a whirlwind tour of a variety of apps. Schools have to change to meet the needs and learning styles of today's students.

Educators need a context for the use of the tools -
Will do Blogs, wikis, RSS, other cool tools
You can find a lot of information at Will's wiki

This is a changing world.
- imagination - how can we think about how to use the technology?
Kyle of One Red Paper Clip - used his imagination to connect with the world and traded up to his house.
Animé video and other audio - and create mashups - and publish

Can share in ways we haven't before.
Over 1 billion people connected to the web - in 9 more years there will be 2 billion. There are 1 trillion links
Used to just consume information and now can create and contribute our own ideas and thoughts.

"We are at a turning point in the technology industry and perhaps even in the history of the world " Tim O'Reilly
Technorati - good search tool for blogs and does research on the blogosphere.
Now we are linking ideas, conversations, and people. Blogging can be a powerful learning experience for kids.

"society of Authorship"
an active and participatory web

Read Free Culture - Lawrence Lessig - available free online
Mentioned Creative Commons

25 million kids creating content online
Kids are tapping into the technology easily
Matthew Bischoff - podcasting in November 2004 (only 2 months after podcasting started) - at 13 he was a teacher - who was teaching to an audience.
Will's daughter made a weather book. Will scanned it and put it up on Flickr - she can see the number of readers (over 1000 already).
Sandaig School website all done by kids
The way to learn something is to teach it - these students are teaching others.

We can connect to things much more powerful outside our classrooms. Need to change classrooms
MIT Opencourseware - you can take over 600 courses free
The entire South African Curriculum is on a wiki which is part of a larger project - wikibooks
It's an organic text which is evloving (and hopefully geting better) Over 1000 books are in development

Rip, Mix and Learn environment
The Web changes teaching - teacher as connector
"Teacher as DJ"
H20 - playlists - can pull in the most relevant resources as needed.
Skype - a classroom gave classroom presentations while their parents were Skyped in.

How can we re-envision teaching?
Learn Anything Anywhere Anytime
"ubiquitiously connected and pervasively proximate" (Mark Federman)

From just in case learning to just in time learning (in case you need to know this)
Nomadic learning - self-motivated
"Learning networks based on meaning not proximity" - Stephen Downes

So many ways of sharing
Digg ( from the site: Digg is all about user powered content. Every article on digg is submitted and voted on by the digg community. Share, discover, bookmark, and promote the news that's important to you!) social bookmarking
Flickr photo sharing

From Hand it in to publish it - changes fundamentally what we ask kids to do.
What needs to change for students to publish to larger audiences.

We need to teach kids to read in hypertext environments
Small Pieces Loosely Joined - David Weinberger

Literacy is Editing

JumpCut - can edit movies through a web browser can then send it out

Thinkfree online office
Google spreadsheets
More and more the web is becoming an application

MySpace would be the 12th most populated country in the world
We are up in arms about how youth are using MySpace, but they are only following

Rupert Murdock owns MySpace and plans to make it the biggest advertising - need to use it to teach about media literacy Students need to learn how to be functional about social environments. We have to teach our kids. We need to know MySpace. We need to get in there to understand it.

Change is inconvenient - Al Gore
But change is coming.....

US - School 2.0

but - we take the tools they use out of their hands - schools are looking less and less about the real world
Chris Lehman

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Will Richardson - On-line communities: Blogs, wikis and other cool tools

Here I am in the Alan November conference - 5 hours with Will Richardson. Lucky me. I'm jealous - he has an iTrip on his iPod so this session or parts of it may be available later. When is the one for the video iPod going to be ready?

Educators need a context for the use of the tools -
Will do Blogs, wikis, RSS, other cool tools

This is a changing world.
- imagination - how can we think about how to use the technology?
Kyle of One Red Paper Clip - used his imagination to connect with the world and traded up to his house.
Animé video and other audio - and create mashups - and publish

Can share in ways we haven't before.
Over 1 billion people connected to the web - in 9 more years there will be 2 billion. There are 1 trillion links
Used to just consume information and now can create and contribute our own ideas and thoughts.

"We are at a turning point in the technology industry and perhaps even in the history of the world " Tim O'Reilly
Technorati - good search tool for blogs and does research on the blogosphere.
Now we are linking ideas, conversations, and people. Blogging can be a powerful learning experience for kids.

"society of Authorship"
an active and participatory web

Read Free Culture - Lawrence Lessig - available free online
Mentioned Creative Commons

25 million kids creating content online
Kids are tapping into the technology easily
Matthew Bischoff - podcasting in November 2004 (only 2 months after podcasting started) - at 13 he was a teacher - who was teaching to an audience.
Will's daughter made a weather book. Will scanned it and put it up on Flickr - she can see the number of readers (over 1000 already).
Sandaig School website all done by kids
The way to learn something is to teach it - these students are teaching others.

We can connect to things much more powerful outside our classrooms. Need to change classrooms
MIT Opencourseware - you can take over 600 courses free
The entire South African Curriculum is on a wiki which is part of a larger project - wikibooks
It's an organic text which is evloving (and hopefully geting better) Over 1000 books are in development

Rip, Mix and Learn environment
The Web changes teaching - teacher as connector
"Teacher as DJ"
H20 - playlists - can pull in the most relevant resources as needed.
Skype - a classroom gave classroom presentations while their parents were Skyped in.

How can we re-envision teaching?
Learn Anything Anywhere Anytime
"ubiquitiously connected and pervasively proximate" (Mark Federman)

From just in case learning to just in time learning (in case you need to know this)
Nomadic learning - self-motivated
"Learning networks based on meaning not proximity" - Stephen Downes


From Hand it in to publish it - changes fundamentally what we ask kids to do.
What needs to change for students to publish to larger audiences.

We need to teach kids to read in hypertext environments
Small Pieces Loosely Joined - David Weinberger

Literacy is Editing

JumpCut - can edit movies through a web browser can then send it out

Google spreadsheets
More and more the web is becoming an application

MySpace would be the 12th most populated country in the world
We are up in arms about how youth are using MySpace, but they are only following

Rupert Murdock owns MySpace and plans to make it the biggest advertising - need to use it to teach about media literacy Students need to learn how to be functional about social environments. We have to teach our kids. We need to know MySpace. We need to get in there to understand it.

Change is inconvenient - Al Gore
But change is coming.....

US - School 2.0

but - we take the tools they use out of their hands - schools are looking less and less about the real world
Chris Lehman

That's the content - just notes from the first part of the session. There will be some elaboration on some of the tools when I get the time.

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Friday, June 30, 2006

Conference Blogs

David Warlick has set up a new service: Hitchhikr People can register conferences, suggest tags and Hitchhikr finds all blog entries that use that tag. It's one stop conference reading and viewing as Flickr images are also available. It's not perfect - I looked at an entry and it had BLC in it but it was not the Alan November conference, but it is quite amazing that you can get everything in one place.

So.... if you are going to a conference please share through a blog. Don't forget to tag your entry You can check the tags at the Hitchhikr site and even get the code you need to enter into your blog. Then you can enter the the url of your blog and ping Technorati, again through the Hitchhikr site to be sure your entry is found.

I'll be at Building Learning Communities mid July and I'll be blogging.

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Friday, June 02, 2006

Games - capturing students' interests

Wow - I just visited Bud Hunt's blog and saw a student production on Othello. This student has combined his love of games with a class on Shakespeare. Talk about engagement! I am sure more work was done on this project than on a standard essay. Did he learn about Othello - yes. Did he make that learning his own? Unquestionably. Bravo to both the student and to Bud Hunt who provides a classroom where this is not only accepted but celebrated.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Fences or Free Access

I have been reading a lot of blog posts lately that deal with the possible legislation to ban access to a number of online communities. David Warlick's post: New Story Case in Point : DOPA provides rebuttles. Putting up walls will not keep students safe. It is education that will. If there is no access to the learning communities in school, students will go in their spare time from home when they are unsupervised. We need to make our students Internet savvy and to do that we need access. But I think it is even more than that. They need to learn to use the tools well. Insipid chats of Hi, what R U doing? can be replaced by blog entries or exchanges for deeper learning and understanding. Let them see the power of the tools.

Sunday, March 26, 2006


I found this quote on Possibilities ---- blog.
"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete." --Buckminster Fuller

I have been thinking a lot about change. Fuller's words make me think about the conversation David Warlick has started on "the new story". Education has to change. The old model is for an earlier time. But there are stakeholders (textbook companies, testing companies) who rely on things remaining the same and I fear they have political clout. We have to get people to understand that a 20th century education will not equip our students for the realities of even the current world, much less the future.

In David Warlick's latest post he says:
Its not so much that technology has changed the nature of teaching and learning, but that technology has changed the nature of information and how the world works, and how people work and learn and play. Because the world that we are preparing our children for is changing so dramatically (and continuing to change), we must rethink the what, how, and why we are teaching our children, and retool our classrooms to accomplish new goals.
I think it is more than retool classrooms. Although I don't agree that schools will disappear (if nothing else, parents need a safe place for their children while they are out working), but they have to change into a more fluid place, where students interact more with other students of varying ages and where they is a lot of contact with the outside world, both virtually and physically. We need to retool our schools. This is a big subject and will need a lot of thought.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

The art of commenting on blogs

I have just discovered a couple of new blogs, one by D. Kurpotwa whose blog, A Difference led me to his blog on mentoring. He writes about how to comment on blogs and podcasts and how important these conversations are. Another blog on the same subject is A Pirouette: Commenting by Lani Davis. Here are some of her suggetions for comments.
  • treating all bloggers with respect.
  • seeking first to understand what is being said.
  • celebrating another'’s accomplishments.
  • using school appropriate language.
  • rephrasing ideas in the blog that made me think, made me feel, or helped me learn to let the blogger know his/her voice has been heard.
  • commenting specifically and positively, without criticism. If I disagree, I will comment appropriately, politely stating my perspective.
  • being mindful always that I may be a role model to my audience, especially if they are younger than I.
  • making no reference to, link to, and/or giving access to any information that may be inappropriate for a school setting.
  • asking at least one question in my comment with the hopes of continuing a conversation and deepening thinking.
  • using a triple check before submitting any comment: Would I be happy to have my mother read this comment? My grandmother? My favorite teacher?

I think it is important that we encourage students through our comments in an authentic way. The more we can foster a larger conversation through blogs and podcasts, the more we can clarify thinking and learning. My blog reading has certainly led to a lot of reflection on my part. Let's get the kids involved too.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Quebec education

Yesterday I posted about how Maine educators seem to have their priorities straight. I live in the province of Quebec. I am happy to say that we do not have the same kind of high stakes testing. Many teachers would argue that we have too much testing, but we have a different kind of testing. What is being created are "Learning and Evaluation Situations" These exams include collaborative work and research. What they don't include are multiple choice questions. Then what is the problem? To do this kind of exam takes time. Teachers resent the two weeks (an hour a day) it takes to administer the exam. I envy the discussion Bob Sprankle described in his podcast of the Maine training for the laptop program. Here people are using the changes to curriculum as something to boycott for leverage in contract talks. The teacher contracts have now been settled, but the years of anger have caused many teachers to have negative attitudes towards what I feel is an amazing program. You can read about it here (lots of jargon - but the underlying aims are sound and exciting).

I see a lot of resistance to change. Bob talked about teachers going in to teaching because they like to learn. I have met many teachers like that. But I have also met many who just want to continue teaching the way they were taught. However, until society really values teachers and truly sees teaching as a profession with specific skills, some teachers will not value teaching either.

We have a teacher shortage coming up here. Our government has proposed as a solution - let students who are in their last year of teacher training go into the classrooms and finish their degrees at night. Or have people with degrees in a particular subject area (but no teacher training) go into the high schools to teach. What does this say about teaching? Is what we learn at university worthless? Perhaps if salaries were better the profession would attract more people who would like to teach, but need to earn more.

This is a bit of a rant. But I get discouraged and understand when others talk of their frustration in trying to convince others that the world has changed. But tomorrow is another day. Change is inevitable - it just may come more slowly than some of us want.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

More Web 2.0

I recently listened to the podcast which addressed David Warlick's Telling a New Story. Wesley Freyer gathered a group of educators to discuss the notion of telling a new story. Today I listened to Bob Sprankle's response. He talks about education constantly reinventing itself.

He talks about how the new tools (blogs, podcasts) provide teachers with ways to learn and share information. The conversation can now take hold. Collaboration is possible on a global level. The isolationism is gone - teachers can enter into the discussion. In blogs and podcasts teachers are reflecting on best practices in a public way. Everyone can get in on the discussion. Like Bob Sprankle, I feel I have been able to receive incredible professional development through these and other new tools. I admit to being a blog adict (not writing as much as I feel I should, but reading). I have my favourites who I read daily and others which I sample occasionaly. The wonderful thing is how it keeps me thinking and reflecting on educational practice

Maine sounds like a great place to teach. Bob Sprankle talked about how in training for the laptop program, teachers were interested in how they would change pedagogy. The laptops were only the tool.

In both podcasts, there was a lot of talk about pedagogy. The web 2.0 only provides tools to
  • help students create a purpose for their learning
  • allow for reflection and assessment of learning
  • build community
  • continue the conversation
It is a vehicle for networking. Listen to these podcasts. They'll get your mind working.

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Saturday, March 11, 2006

digital stories

The more I look at digital storytelling, the more I realize the power this can have. I just came across an interesting website - Murmure - the Montreal version or Murmur - the Toronto version. The site has clickable maps. Each red dot represents a personal story related to the spot on the map. What a neat project this would be in schools. The students could create their own maps or use Google Maps to pinpoint places on a map. The audio stories could then be connected to those spots. This could be personal narrative - the students' own stories, interviews with seniors to find out what the neighbourhood was like, historical moments - stories of important historical events, a walking tour of the neighbourhood.

Interestingly, in The Gazette there is a 5 part story tracing the story of a house in which the author lives. An architectural plus personal tour of a neighbourhood would be interesting. When we tell stories we start to look and to see new things. Let's open our eyes and hearts and tell the stories.


Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The value of blogs and Web2.0

If anyone is still questioning the value of blogs in education think about this. A student who participated in a math blog has, on his own initiative joined the new math class in order to mentor them. D. Kuropatwa writes about it on his blog. Blogging is a natural environment for students. From Xanga to MySpace to other social digital environments, they are used to the exchange of ideas (perhaps not on a sophisticated level - but fostering that is up to educators)

David Warlick in a recent post talks about the Web 2.0 and what he sees as the important aspects.
  1. Content is Conversation
  2. Millions of people are talking now, and they are talking in such a way (blogs, wikis, and podcasting) that the world is potentially their audience. This is important, I believe, because in a time of rapid change, the answer to brand new questions may not come from someone who got their PHD ten years ago. It may just come from something, that somebody said, yesterday.

  3. Content is organizing itself
  4. Well this is a rather melodramatic statement, meant to start a conversation about how the way that information flows is largely resulting from the behavior of its readers. Aggregators, mashups, blog linkings, and other more esoteric techniques are causing us to reshape the information environment on a global and on a personal level.

  5. People are connect to each other through their content
  6. This one has had a personal impact on me, as I have made new friends through the comments and blog-passing of people who react to my ideas. Far more important is the fact that through these exchanges, I have learned. My ideas have been challenged and they have grown, as have I.

It is this interconnectedness that I think is so powerful for students. Kuropatwa's former student saw value in connecting to the new group. Because of the asyncronous nature of blogs this was feasible. What math student can take the time to go sit in on math classes of a course he has already taken? Yet with a blog this student was able to mentor the new students.

It is essential that we help students become thoughtful contributors to the web - and equally important that we help them become thoughtful consummers of what is available.

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Thursday, February 16, 2006

Is it a game?

I met Andreas Ua'Siaghail over a year ago at a computer conference here in Montreal. He spoke to me of some software he was developing: Pax Warrior. He subsequently showed it to me. It is a simulation based on the Ruandan genocide, with original film footage as well as interviews with genocide survivors. The job of the player (hopefully in collaboration with classmates) is to experience the constant decision-making that General Dallaire needed to go through. The player is given as much information as Dallaire had. Each decision may result in worsening the situaion or not. This is a very realistic situation in which you face many ethical issues. You can't change the past, but can you change the future. By becoming informed decision makers, perhaps our youth will make ethical decisions which may put humanity before money. I was impressed by the software. Andreas sent me a link to an interview on the BBC (only available this week) which is worth listening to. The item which precedes it on the show is interesting too! Have a look at what this simulation can do.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Cultivating Digital Literacy Through Blogging

I really enjoy listening to Wesley Fryer. He shares generously both his thoughts and experience. Some of his podcasts feature speakers at conferences. I just listened to one of David Thornburg talking about the use of Linux and Open Source software.

Wesley Fryer talks about blogs and podcasts as disruptive technology. It's not about transmission based education, but rather is a technology that engages students, that meets them where they are. Many people talk about 21st century literacy skills Cheryl Lemke in enGuage talks about digital age literacies, inventive thinking, effective communication and high productivity. Fryer contends that blogs and podcasts are a great way of developing these skills. Blogging allows for social discourse. If you have never listened to a podcast try this one. His passion is palpable. Check the links on the website. One thing that Fryer recommends is commenting on students' blogs, how important it is for the students. If you don't know where to find student blogs, Fryer has tagged a number of them on his account

Engagement, relationships, storytelling - the keys to learning (Fryer) Can we make that part of education?

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

NewCon - Conferences

David Warlick just wrote about the possibilities of a new style of high tech conferences where we could participate through networks. I already feel that conferences are reaching me in ways they could not before. I have listened to a number of keynote addresses via podcasts and webcasts. But this is unidirectional. I can't interact with the speakers or the other delegates. The advantage is I don't have to spend the money to get to the conference and I can listen independent of the time the actual session took place. But imagine what it will be like when people can participate more actively from a distance. We have the technology - let's put it to good use.

There are already a number of opportunities for networking. I have occasionally listened to EdTech Talk You can either listen to archived copies of shows or you can listen live. When listening live you can take part in a real time chat with other participants - build community. The show features interesting people in the field from around the world who connect via Skype. If there is room in the Skype conference and a member of the chatroom has been making some interesting contributions, they may be invited to join the Skype conference.

Another interesting model is Tapped In, where educators can connect for real time and participate in a realtime exchange with other teachers and to get information from a leader. Topics are focused and the calendar is available well ahead of time. Goal: join a session.

The possibilities for connection are growing. The world is growing smaller - or flatter!


Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Personal Learning Space

There has been a lot of talk of a blog as a personal learning space. This resonates with me. The more one personalizes a blogspace the more it becomes a one stop place to read, reflect and write. posting blogrolls on the site or the blogs you are currently reading and putting links to other resources you consult regularly, the blog can be the place you go to read the latest musings of those who you respect and a place to respond to those posts.

I like to use my blog as a place to hone my thinking (though I don't write often enough ). Note to self - write more and spend some time making this space more of a personal learning environment.
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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Sticky Memory

I just read a post from Will Richardson on literacy. He talks about the amount of information we process now and it is astronomical. One point he makes is that aside from organizing what he reads through and bloglines, he makes the information sticky by blogging it (just what I am doing now). Another point he makes is that students, faced with this enormous quantity of information are going to have to learn how to vet it and learn to recognize patterns in what they read.

I too have found that writing not only helps me retain what I read but also helps me understand what I read.

David Warlick talks about the 4 E's : exposing knowledge, employing information, expressing ideas, and ethics on the Internet. Education will have to change, but as I said in my last post - this is not easy.


Time Flies

Well - it is a long time. House renovations are over and I can now get back to thinking about education and technology. I have been slower in my reading but have been listening to a variety of podcasts. January and the new resolutions......

I listened to David Warlick's podcast on his thoughts about education in the future and I have to say I am not as optimistic as he is. I do see a faster push for schools to adopt 1:1 computing, but will it change educational practises? There are some amazing teachers out there, but I find change is not a feature of many educators or the parents of the students. There is the attitude of "If it worked for me why should I change?" I have seen laptops go into a class and be used for writing, but little changes regarding how the teaching and learning is going on. A computer is not just a fancy pencil. It offers new ways of thinking and relating to the world.