Are you ready to grow? What's holding you back?

Are you ready to grow?    What's holding you back?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

What is our 20/20 Vision?

I had the opportunity to listen to keynote speaker Will Richardson at the Christa McAuliffe Technology Conference today. Having read his book, I was anxious to meet him in person and learn from his experiences. As I listened I found myself jotting down some quotes that spoke to me. I thought I would share those.

First is my title, 20/20 vision, did you realize that our current kindergartners will be the class of 2020? What is our vision for them, what should their education look like?

"Own it for yourself before you can give it away." How true, when we get teachers to experience technology themselves, like creating their own eportfolio, podcast, or participating in a wiki or blog, they will understand the value and will be more inclined to use these technologies with their students.

"Give everything a purpose beyond the classroom, it has to have wings." Do you need to memorize the names of all the countries in Africa, or do you need to know how to find them? Which will give you wings outside of the classroom?

"Real work for real audiences in the real world." So much more meaningful for our students!

"Interaction is where we learn, blogs become classrooms."

"When we break away from cubicles, everyone gets smarter."

"24/7/365" That's when we learn, not 6th period on a Monday!

"Everything is shifting, but education, the kids aren't waiting for us!"

Let's catch up!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Second Life

What an adventure for someone like me! I tend to work hard to stay up-to-date with new technologies, but one piece I have missed, purposely I might add, is the gaming avenue. I have never had much interest in that type of activity mostly because I enjoy the outdoors along with art and creativity and never felt that gaming would be the best use of my time. I've also pushed my four children in that direction, allowing them to play these games at friends' houses, but not bringing it into my own home. The reason I bring this up is because it immediately came to mind when I first started using Second Life, it was very foreign to me! Just to walk was difficult at first, I was also challenged to problem solve in this environment, consequently a lot of time was spent getting myself acquainted!

I tried to put myself in the shoes of others who use Second Life, I realize one of the benefits to many people is the opportunity to become someone different, not themselves, a way to escape the real world for a little while at least. For me, I found it difficult to become someone different than who I really am. Maybe it was because I was meeting my class there, so it really was a part of this life. But, I tend to think I would have a hard time with that anyway.

Another interesting note I thought I would share, when I first got on and was learning to walk, I walked into a few walls, there were a few people who walked up to me and tried to assist me. How nice to know there are good people out there. But, the day before meeting for the class, I got on to find ISTE Island and practice getting around that island. I'm not sure what I did but somehow I ended up doing a flip, when I landed on the ground my left arm became detached and my neck stretched out to the left quite a distance, I was quite deformed. I had no idea how to fix it! So I decided to ask passersby for help, no one would respond, it was almost as if I was looked at and ignored. It really made me think of the real world and how people are treated. It became very important to me to get myself back to normal! Maybe Second Life could be used as a way to get a true sense of how it feels to be disabled, overweight or just different from what is considered the norm. Just a thought!

All that aside, I see Second Life as an opportunity to meet new people, and to learn from others. It's a way to collaborate and work together. I wouldn't suggest it as a way for a group of staff members to collaborate or those who encounter each other on a regular basis, there are certainly easier ways, email, blogs, meetings etc. But, it would be a way to work with anyone from anywhere. As a teacher it would give me the opportunity to talk with people that I don't know from other schools and even other countries. This is just another way that we are flattening the world!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

One Computer for Every Student

I feel lucky in my classroom to have a cart with 20 laptops in it. True, it's not just for my students, I have to share it with the rest of the middle school. But, sometimes I feel like it's all mine and every child has a computer at their hands. It's wonderful, the kids love it and I feel like I have the opportunity to teach the children to be real learners. What if every child had a laptop all day, in and out of school. What would education look like then?

I took some time to look at the program for developing countries where students will be given an XO laptop, some will have this before even experiencing books, paper and pencil! What an amazing idea. The tool itself is worth taking a look at. It was really designed with kids and schools in mind. It's the first time I have seen anything like it. It's designed to withstand extreme temperatures, outdoor classrooms, sand, rain and little fingers that may slip and drop it! Not only that but its capabilities show that someone really had foresight into where education should be going and how technology can support that. Not only can children easily access the internet with the wireless component when available, but when not available they can become a part of the mesh network, which is connecting with other XO computers. So, even though they may be in an area where there is not wireless, they can still be connected to each other. On top of that it has been set up with many child friendly features such as chat rooms, eToys where they can play games with others they are connected to, data collection and graphing, RSS feeds, viewing news, drawing, taking photos, video slideshows, record video and audio, perform music, compose music collaboratively and writing. It also includes a journal of laptop use which can be used as assessment.

I am really excited about the opportunities this opens up for students around the world. You might be asking how you could get ahold of one. Well visit the Laptop Giving site and you will see how you can be a part of supporting this program for children of developing countries while also obtaining one yourself. I already put my order in!

If you are wondering about other software abilities, there are people working on that all the time, visit the wiki to find out more.

Monday, November 12, 2007


Evaluation has come a long way, or at least it should have! The assessments I remember from grade school and high school were tests or quizzes that were written, true or false, multiple choice, matching and fill in the blank. Those types of assessments still exist now in many classrooms. However, many teachers have moved beyond this type of evaluation. As a teacher I began to move away from them a number of years ago when I came to the realization that some students just didn't test well, which didn't always mean that they didn't understand the material, in many cases they did and struggled to represent their knowledge in that format. Now I use a variety of assessments and often offer the students different methods and let them choose.

As education begins to change and more information is available to students, I strive to teach my students how to solve problems and locate needed information and then to evaluate it. So how do I assess these skills? One way is with a problem solving rubric I have created. I give this to the students at the beginning of the school year and we use it a number of times throughout the year. They realize quickly that they should be focusing on solving problems and improving their skills in this area. I teach them that problem solving applies to all curriculum and is a process where one identifies and defines a problem, analyzes pertinent data, and resolves the problem. An advanced problem solver consistently identifies the problem, defines and clarifies the problem, organizes and evaluates data, resolves the problem, has the ability to judge practicality and merit of the solution and uses inductive reasoning to draw conclusions from the solution. This skill could be used anywhere from not having a pencil for class to finding the most accurate and up to date website to gather information for a research project.

So, can a podcast be an assessment of problem solving, how about blog postings or a YouTube presentation? Why not, couldn't a student show their process of problem solving in all of these methods? In fact aren't those more effective ways to show evidence of problem solving than a written test? I am all about evidence and artifacts these days. What would be better to add to an eportfolio a multiple choice fraction test or a video presentation showing the process of adding fractions and why a common denominator is needed?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Moodle and more!

I am constantly discovering new benefits to this free opensource software!

My school is scheduled to go through its next accreditation in 2010. For all high school teachers who have gone through this process, you know it's not too early to start! I was recently made the chair of the steering committee, although an honor, I am fully aware of the great amount of responsibility and work this means.

This was my idea, I'd love some feedback and suggestions! In order to organize all of the committees involved; instruction, curriculum, assessment, leadership, resources and community, I thought I might use Moodle. I was thinking of using the online class option and putting all the committees that I set up on Moodle as a class. The chair would be the teacher of the class and could create assignments and discussions for their members. I would set deadlines for all of the classes. For example, I might require the assessment committee to have examples of formative assessment practices from all subject areas by this June. The chair or teacher would then present the format and requirements to the members and assign them each a subject to research and report back. The chair could use the blogging on Moodle to have discussions with all the members about their progress, I could also visit these to give support and guidance. By the end, not only do I have evidence of the final product, but I have a record of the process and growth.

I confess that I have an ulterior motive here. One of the goals I believe the faculty at my school need to improve on is communication and collaboration. We seldom work together on things for our school or our students. Although people will tell me its because of time constraints, I also feel it is because of a lack of training and experience in collaboration. It is so important that we teach our students to communicate and collaborate with each other and those around the world, yet how can we teach it if we don't know it ourselves? So, my hope in this process, is that the teachers will grow in three ways, one they will value the process of accreditation, second they will experience the benefits of communicating and collaboration and third they will become well experienced in the use of Moodle and blogs that they might transfer that to their own classrooms.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Seeking an Identity

In a recent class I took at PSU with Dr. Michael Fischler, Social Behavior in a Diverse Society, I was touched by many new things I learned about people. But, one aspect that has returned to me many times was my understanding that it is a persons natural instinct to seek identity. There are many ways in which we identify ourselves; teacher, mother, artist. Those who feel a lack of identity, for example those students who struggle academically, are not successful in sports or other activities and maybe deal with a difficult home life will search for a way to identify themselves, even if negatively. They will work to save face.

I mention this because as I read through Siemens, Knowing Knowledge, this idea surfaced again. Consider his statement; "There is something rewarding about having an idea, owning it, being recognized for it. Even when we share, we attach identity to what we have created. In creating knowledge, we experience life, identity, hope. To contribute to the public space, to be recognized, to be a part of something bigger, these motivations drive us."

I feel strongly that as a teacher, community member, mother that it is my responsibility to help students find their identity. Who are they, what do they stand for, and how do they present themselves to others? Although spaces like Facebook and MySpace have caused a lot of controversy in schools and communities because of the way in which some children are presenting themselves, could it be that they are struggling to find their identity? If taught and supported couldn't these public spaces be a place for them to discover their positive identity? Why aren't we teaching children how to profile themselves positively, I believe they are looking for that guidance.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Personal Learning Networks

Working collaboratively with others fosters learning. Bringing students away from the model where they feel they can only learn from the teacher will help them realize the value of others. Learning needs to take place in our every day activities. Everytime we observe someone else or ask questions we grow. Creating networks of friends, peers and colleagues is not something new for us. However, today we can expand that network of people to those all over the world, the quantity and variety of individuals is broader. What does that mean for our learning and the education of our students?

A learning network can help us sift through all the data that is constantly available to us and identify the information that will be most useful to us. It helps us learn from others, but also encourages us to participate and contribute to the learning of others. This can be so valuable to all of us.

I have not yet taken the opportunity to create individual learning networks with my students, but have created one as a class for the human body unit we are working on in science class. The students have been enthusiastic about checking what new information has come to us each day and taking the time to respond has helped them to work collaboratively as a class. My only frustration is the fact that social networking as a whole is blocked in my school. The Websense that we use has allowed me to access some of these network connections using quota time, which is only about 10 minutes at a sitting.

How do we create 21st century schools that encourage our students to create networks and collaborate with others, but also keep our students safe? I believe education is the answer, not avoidance!