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.

Categories: , ,

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.

Categories: ,