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

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

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!

Classroom 2.0

Classroom 2.0 to me really means a 21st century classroom. It is a classroom where using collaborative technologies to teach skills is ever present. I have had the opportunity, because of collaborative technologies, to become a part of a healthy discussion about Classroom 2.0 ( in a blog with over 3,000 members. These are people all over who are working hard to make changes to their classroom to bring it from the 20th century to the 21st century, no easy task for many.

Once I became aware of what Classroom 2.0 really meant, I started to evaluate my classroom, am I close to where I need to be? Then I read an article by Clarence Fisher. It helped me think about the setting of the schools and classrooms today. Are they the same as they were 40 or 50 years ago, for many the answer is yes, other than an occasional computer and printer on a desk. But, otherwise have they changed? What should a classroom look like, feel like in today's world? How are schedules, lessons, assessments and the actual set up of the physical room be different. How do I create learning spaces for the next generation?

Another thought - remember the bumper sticker that says "If you can read this sentence, thank a teacher"? How has literacy changed now? Should the bumper sticker read something like: "If you can produce a video clip in collaboration with another student/professional from somewhere else in the world, post it on the web, and participate in a blog discussion about it, thank a teacher!" Check out the articles on Remote Access, it will make you think about this!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Technology Professional Development

Teacher's always struggle with professional development that takes them outside of the classroom and then sends them back alone to integrate. How many times have we all attended workshops or conferences and came home with a bag of fliers and information that gets put in a pile, until you have time to revisit it and figure out how you can use it in your class? I always try to walk away from a workshop with one thing I can go into my classroom and use the next day.

Sylvia Martinez presents research that technology professional development as it exists today is not working for our schools and its students. I think a lot of us can see that. But what is the solution? She presents the idea of students mentoring teachers. Although it takes an open minded, unthreatened teacher to participate in this, I do believe we have many such teachers. In her presentation, Sylvia gives examples and shows footage of the success of this idea. Why not have students work with teachers to plan lessons and activities, while helping teachers become comfortable integrating technology into their classrooms?

The way I see it, this is one effective way to begin breaking down the barriers in schools and catching up with the invisible boundaries that exist in today's world.

Disappearing Boundaries

David Warlick is a keynote speaker at an online k12 conference. He talks about the boundaries that have always existed in our cultures and our classrooms, but are now becoming invisible in the 21st century. I found it interesting to hear him speak about watching his father get ready for work each day and that he always had a sense of what his future held, something similar to his father. He says that he was probably the last generation that could see his future in his parents, our kids know it will be different.

Our students are connected constantly, we as educators, should not fight that, but embrace it. There is so much information available to us if we are only paying attention. The difficulty is that it involves so much change, as a classroom teacher, our education did not prepare us for a career in education, that preparation must continue on a daily basis. At this point it is feasible to have students who are more literate than their teachers. It has become a flat world where we are all working together to gain information, share it and learn form it.

As Mr Warwick said, "It is the first time in history we are preparing our kids for a future we cannot predict, we must teach kids to teach themselves."

Sunday, October 21, 2007


I was able to load my podcast onto my eboard (an electronical information bulletin board used at my school), I put it here for students and parents to listen to. The kids were excited to share with their parents! Just a first try for me! Once on the site, click on "Nature's Classroom Interview."

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Technology - Is it changing the way we teach?

If you walk into almost any classroom today you can quickly see that yes, we are teaching differently. We can say that because we see computers, LCD projectors, smart boards, digital cameras etc. being used by teachers and students. Computers and LCD projectors have replaced overhead projectors (but, not entirely), smart boards have replaced chalk boards, cameras have replaced markers and colored pencils for drawing and we could go on. The question still remains about the effectiveness of the use of technology in many schools.

Is technology changing the way we teach has a whole new meaning after reading Siemens, Knowing Knowledge, The Flow of Knowledge. He states that "we have always had access to more knowledge than we were able to handle. It has intensified in our generation." The human brain cannot handle the amount of knowledge available to us today, if we considered knowledge the amount of information you know and have stored for retreival later. It is becoming apparent today that knowledge is more of the idea that one possesses the skills to obtain knowledge rather than a collection of information.

"Our ability to learn what we need for tomorrow is more important than what we know today. When knowledge is needed, but not known, the ability to plug into sources to meet the requirements becomes vital. As knowledge continues to grow and evolve, access to what is needed is more important than what the learner currently possesses."

As a teacher, that is a powerful statement, something to ponder. It makes me question how I teach, am I preparing the students to have the skills to obtain knowledge rather than feeding them knowledge? Has technology changed the way we teach, in some ways, but are we as teachers really preparing the students for the 21st century? Is "know where" replacing 'know what" and "know how"?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


I was enthusiastic about podcasting after reading Will Richardson's chapter about finding, creating and using podcasts in schools. Although it is somewhat new to me it has clearly been used in creative ways all over and by all sorts of people.

I decided to create an audio podcast with my students. They thought it would be cool to talk about their recent trip to Nature's Classroom. They wanted a different way to share what they had experienced with other students, parents and community members. So I downloaded Audacity and started to play with it. Using a simple external microphone we were able to record an interview where the students told a lot about their trip. I was then able to add music in the background. Saving it was another story, I was able to export it with a WAV file onto Media Player. This has allowed me to play it off my computer, however I am not able to upload it to any internet site. After more research I found and downloaded to provide server space to store it. I am still having difficulty putting it on the internet... help, what is my next step?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Topic of Choice - Moodle

With the state wide intiative to implement eportfolios into all schools in New Hampshire, I have begun to look at Moodle, After researching a number of software solutions for eportfolios I came to the conclusion that although there are many products we could spend our money on, and many that may offer more options for our school, we needed to pilot the free open source option first. So this year I will be working with students from grade 6-8 to create their eportfolios using the Mo0folio option on Moodle developed by the Seacoast Technology Center. Moodle has a lot to offer, like most software is has more than most people would use. I have used it to create an online course for my students and am now working to set it up for eportfolios. Has anyone used it for this purpose?

The benefits I have found so far is the ability to easily add artifacts and both student and teacher reflection. It also allows a teacher to lock an artifact from being edited after completion. We will host it all on one server, link it to our school website for easy access. Students will be able to get to their eportfolios using their regular school log in. The software is easily downloaded and managed for the entire school population. Photos, video, voice, powerpoint etc. can be loaded as artifacts.

Some of the downfalls are its lack of pizzaz as the students might say. There is an option for new themes including color, but they are very limited. No backgrounds or photographs will appear when opening the eportfolio as it is not created to do so. This may take away from the motivation of the students. However, because it is open source coding, we can work to make the improvements we'd like to see, and will benefit from the improvements that others make.

I'm curious about the progress others in the state have made with their student eportfolios, please share!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Wikis in Education

When I first discovered Wikipedia I had no idea what a Wiki was. I just simply thought it was a digital encyclopedia! I used it often and with my students when doing research, I didn't question the validity of the content as I believed it was written by experts just as encyclopedias always have been. There was a short time when I realized how Wikipedia was created and I questioned its value. However, I have begun to have a better sense of trust for the greater good.

I truly believe people are good, honest, caring and live their lives trying to do what's right. Those are the people who contribute to the content of these Wiki sites. There is always a risk of encountering those who set out to harm, but they are few, and no competition for those with a stronger sense of right and wrong. How interesting that a better understanding of a Wiki can give me a comforting sense of the world today and where we are headed as a global community.

What better way to teach children to value not only their work, but those of others? Our western culture is so focused on the individual that we could learn something from the eastern cultures who find it shameful to take credit for themselves, it is the group that becomes successful, not the individual. Wikis are a true result of what strong collaboration skills will do for us. Could Wikis possibly be the beginning of a cultural change?

Media Sharing

Google Image search was such an exciting new tool when it first came out and educators scrambled to come up with ways to teach using this tool. But, little of that information was shared with other educators.

Today, not only words are being used to communicate ideas and thoughts, but photos are also. Sharing is not a new concept, but technology has promoted more sharing and in wider circles.

I am glad to see that sites like Flickr allow for restricted use so that educators or parents can have some control of the photo content the students are involved in. Although I am an advocate of teaching students how to handle what they may come across, rather than hiding it all from them, I fully understand concerns of parents and school districts. The restrictions allow educators to involve their students in a safe way.

Now I find myself wanting to join a blog discussion with educators about the different uses of media sharing in the classroom. What are the uses of media sharing in the classroom and how do they reflect the state standards we are so closely tied to, not just the technology standards, but throughout the curriculum?

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Social Bookmarking

There is clearly a whole new world out there for us to explore. Much larger than it was for me when I was growing up, how did it get so large in such a short period of time? It is amazing to me how much is available to our students, but then the question arises, are we teaching our children to use these resources or are we teaching them to be successful in the world we grew up in?

There is the traditional classrom where students' work is done in isolation, how many classrooms can we walk into now that are still run in this traditional fashion, for at least part of the time?

A question from Will Richardson's book Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, "Is it starting to feel like you need your own army to help you keep track of all the information you might need or want?" leads me to realize that I am not the only one who may be overwhelmed by all the information available. The amount of information available has grown, while the world of access has become smaller.

What has struck me most about social bookmarking, and blogs and wikis too, for that matter is the fact that they are continuous conversations among many participants. People are more than willing to share their ideas and resources with others, in order to improve their cause. They understand by doing this they will get something great in return and they are!

How amazing to a person who grew up thrilled when I had a project to research and I actually found one paragraph in the encylopedia that pertained to the subject. Do our children even realize how close they are to a wealth of knowledge from not only experts, but everyday people who have a lot to offer.

I love the ideas presented by Will Richardson in his book mentioned above, I feel like I can start tomorrow!

RSS Reader

I have always been amazed at the amount of information coming to us, it either causes me to shut down and back away or try to organize in a way that I can manage it without becoming overwhelmed. As more and more cooperative information gathering and reporting continues to happen, the more important it becomes to have assistance in organizing what is essential to the task at hand.

Although it takes some time initially I can see the benefits of a "Read Simple Syndication" program to allow the "real simple" user to keep track of all information that pertains to an interest or career.

I decided to test this new concept before using it with my students in the classroom. So I set up a RSS that would help me gather information about pottery, one of my favorite passtimes. I did then first by subscribing to a few blogs of interest. I then decided to expand on that so I went to and filled in the search terms, with pottery. I quickly learned to carefully define what I was looking for and put in terms like "mixing glazes" and "throwing clay" that way I got more of the behind the scenes information I was looking for. I also created on aggregator for the handmade baskets that I make, it helped me find some valuable information about techniques and other designs, what fun!

I can certainly see the benefits of using RSS feeds with my students. When I begin my unit on Global Warming, it will save me lots of time feeling like I am just stumbling across worthwhile information. It will also benefit the students in many ways, information will be at their fingertips and updated regularly, how quickly education is changing!! How important it is that we change the way we teach our students to learn.