Thursday, July 3, 2008
I've also been added to another educational directory - the International Edubloggers Directory is a directory of other educational bloggers. If you are an educational blogger, you too can request to be added to the list. It's just one more resource you can use to expand your learning network. I've found some of the folks on my blogroll, such as Stephanie Sandifer at Change Agency, David Warlick at 2¢, Clay Burell at Beyond School, and Patrick Higgins at Chalkdust 101, to name a few. I've added the Edubloggers badge to my blog - if you're interested in joining, visit the Directory and click on the Add tab at the top.
Saturday, June 7, 2008
- I was piloting a 5-day trial of using Civilization in the social studies classroom. It was a World Geography class, with only a handful of gamers and three different versions of the game.
- The state of Georgia has End of Course Tests for select courses in the four major subject areas - English, Social Studies, Math and Science. And this year, we chose to do all of our tests online (with a few exceptions).
- Wrapping up the year itself involves accounting for all of the classroom technology and storing it for the summer.
Friday, April 25, 2008
- I've always been a big fan of simulation games, and the Civilization series is one of the best - raise your tribe from infancy to a powerful nation by researching technology, building cities and armies and public improvements, all the while keeping peace (or not) with your neighbors.
I've stumbled across several educators who discuss using Civilization as a teaching tool for World History or World Geography. In my school, I'm working with those same subjects to pilot some lessons for using Civilization-type games as possible teaching tools. Because our teachers feel like they don't have a lot of room to move around the standards, I'm having to come up with some small-scale lesson plans. (If you've ever played Civilization, you know it's a multiple-hour, if not day, endeavor.)
- My family got our first computer back in the day before Windows, before graphics - but that didn't stop me from playing games. I've always loved interactive fiction, especially the Infocom titles like Zork or the Enchanter series. Interactive fiction (IF) is making a bit of an underground resurgence - not as a viable commercial option, but rather as a labor of love, as a throwback to games that were a little more mentally challenging, and as a new genre of literature(?). I've found a couple of articles discussing the use of IF in the context of language learners - delayed readers, or ESOL students.
I'm interested in working with our ESOL teachers on possibly introducing some IF games to help support their students' comprehension and learning of English. It's possible that I might need to write some custom-made games over the summer... thank goodness for Graham Nelson and his Inform 7 authoring software.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
One thing that caught my eye today was a graphic on a post at the Change Agency about School 2.0. The graphic itself was a copy of the School 2.0 Ecosystem map, which illustrates how connected the school of the future might be. It's a very interesting artifact, with examples of how technology can help schools connect to other schools, other students and teachers, workplace professionals, and the community at large - not to mention how the "learning environment" becomes more than just the classroom/school itself.
It provides some great food for thought - but not necessarily any complete answers. While it does point out some important things to strive for - such as the essential need of building capacity, the empowering and challenging of faculty, and the constant mastery assessment of students - each district will need to use its own measures to determine how best to meet this vision.
Here's what I think the really challenging part is: in order to move towards this vision - to really embrace and adopt "school 2.0" - schools, districts, teachers and everyone concerned will need to rethink their perception of what "school" is. We've been using this compulsory education model for so long, it's going to take a herculean effort to uproot it quickly OR a very long time to uproot it gradually. And by doing it gradually, we run into the very problem raised by the Change Agency blog post - how quickly do districts need to move towards this vision to achieve it before the elements of this vision become obsolete?
As I've mentioned before, will we find ourselves achieving school 2.0, only to find out that the new current standard is now school 3.0?
Thursday, April 3, 2008
Last week, I told you I was working with a history teacher on improving her students' PowerPoint presentations. This week, I was with them in the computer lab for a couple of days while they worked on them, and then sat in on about half the presentations in class. I'm going to send the teacher the links to these two articles so she can share them with her classes (if she likes), so this is both a recap for readers and a list of comments to the students:
- First of all, I was very impressed with the majority of the PowerPoints. Students had taken it to heart that the slides don't need to be filled with text. Several of them used very vibrant images, and some included animations to help emphasize their points. For the most part, text found on the slides was the important text, and was not all of the text. Good job, guys!
- What I felt was lacking - and this is no real fault of the students - was skill at presenting. Even though the presentations were fine, it was clear that the presenters were a little uncomfortable speaking in front of their peers, or didn't know or review the material. While, for the most part, they didn't read off of the PowerPoint slides (the worst of all presenter sins), many read directly from their notes (the next-worst).
I completely understand the need to do this, though - very few people can be expected to become an expert on a topic in three days (plus a weekend), especially with six other classes to worry about - some of which may have been deemed by students to be more important than U.S. History. Perhaps what the teacher and I should've built into the lesson is how the students should prepare for the presentation itself -
- reviewing the material ahead of time;
- how to address the audience, not just the teacher (or the board);
- engage the audience - don't just talk to them, talk with them (even if it's only once)
- looking like you know what you're talking about;
- practice with your partner ahead of time (even just 5 minutes) so you know how your presentation will go.
These are just a few suggestions I'd like to pass on to the students. Overall, guys, I still think you did a very good job, and I appreciate you letting me come in to your classroom and work with you.
I happened to run into another teacher later in the day, and I was chatting with him about the project. He was very enthusiastic about it and wants me to come work with his classes, because he sees the same thing with his students. Between the two of us, we realized that this lesson is best placed at the beginning of the year, and delivered to students in such a way that they can keep these skills in mind as they give future presentations in class.
At this point, I'm thinking of trying to put together a series of lessons that teachers can use - either with my help or without - in order to help students improve their public speaking skills. If and when it materializes, look for it on the library section of techieteacher.org.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Tomorrow, I'm going into a US History teacher's class to help her introduce her students to an upcoming project. They are researching various aspects of early 20th century history, and must create a PowerPoint to accompany a presentation to the class.
Now, if you're like me, you've seen plenty of PowerPoints from students (and maybe from teachers, keynote speakers, business professionals,...) that have slides full of text which they proceed to read to the class. Or alternately, PowerPoints are turned in instead of reports, but the PowerPoints contain just as much text and information as the report would - same format, different application.
I'm taking it upon myself - with the full agreement and support of the teacher - to try to change how students approach using PowerPoint. I'm hoping to show them that a good PowerPoint only enhances what the speaker is saying, not replaces. They need to think more about the content than what animations or fonts they include.
I'm providing the students with a page they can use to storyboard their presentation, as well as some tips on effective PowerPoint design. I've also got a PowerPoint with some do's and don't's; I've uploaded it to Slideshare, although it's not much without narration or the animations. But in any case, here you go:
(You can download the actual presentation from Slideshare here - maybe that way it'll make more sense...)
I'm in the classroom Thursday - when students are beginning their research - and Friday - when they're designing and creating their PowerPoints. I'm going to try to sit in on some of the presentations next week to see how things go. Stay tuned for Part II to see how things went.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
A colleague of mine earlier today sent out a link to the article A Taste of Web 2.0, as published by T.H.E. Journal. While the article spends eight pages discussing a variety of web-based tools - many of them free or with ad-free educator plans - that might be desirable to teachers and even school administrators, one thing that caught my attention was the short summary on the first page:
[E]ducators have concerns about risks for K-12 students and wasting time. Many are banning school use of the very applications (e.g., social networking, blogs, wikis, chat) integral to online learning systems[...]. Even without a ban, another contributing factor for avoiding Web 2.0 might be educator fears about changing their teaching methods to better engage learners. The International Society for Technology in Education [hyperlink added]...indicates that to learn effectively and live productively in an increasingly digital world, students should know and be able to use technology for creativity and innovation; communication and collaboration; research and information fluency; critical thinking, problem solving, and decision making; digital citizenship; and technology operations and concepts. Thus one might say such banning limits development of skills valued for the 21st century. [emphasis added]
Later in the article, Wikipedia is cited as an example of a Web 2.0 site that is addressing the need for "21st-century-skill instruction" - greater encouragement of citations in articles, encouraging contributors (read: students) to verify posted information. Thus, Wikipedia users are now given one more tool to help them think critically - not everything on the web can be taken at face value; what is the veracity, the "weight" of this particular piece you're reading? (Does this effort mean that Wikipedia is really Web 2.1?)
Emil, a teacher at my school who also received the email about the post - he teaches networking, robotics, and engineering - replied back with the teacher-in-the-trenches perspective:
I see the distraction factor daily. I think it is not so much a teacher’s risk or inability or fear to use the tools as it is “knowing” the tangents that kids will go off on that are not related to a given project. We all do it to a certain extent, but the kids go off with total abandonment. We have a sense of responsibility to get the job done, that we have NOT passed on to the kids. They would play games, blog, etc. all day every day with no focused purpose if we let them. We must show them a purpose to their exploration. THAT I have not found a way to do just yet, as there are no real consequences for anyone’s actions...except for the teacher of course. Any recommendations??
Sorry, Emil. The bad news is that I don't think it's a quick fix - we're talking about changing the fundamental way a lot of us (myself included, although less and less every day) think about education. How can we structure classroom learning that does impart some "weight" to what students are doing in the classroom? The irony is, I think that allowing students to use these tools - to start to produce learning products that are on the world's desktops, not just the teachers - can provide us with a venue for that kind of instruction, but until they get that kind of instruction, we can't trust them to use these tools.
The other disparity is that while the change is occuring within education - from one teacher to another, conversation by conversation - it is a slow change, like most in education. But the pace at which technology and its tools changes might find us prepared to use Web 2.0 in the classroom - and we look to find that we're now facing Web 3.0 (or 4.0, or...)
But when students do get a chance to use these tools, man, can they shine! I'll close with this additional anecdote that Emil shared:
...you should see the networking of my Robotic Club kids and their phones, texting other clubs in the robotics world when a new release is eminent. The providers are being “Hush Hush” just before the info is made public. Kids can connect and get the lowdown as fast as it is put out. Sometimes, before it hits the official websites. When they have a purpose, stand back and be amazed.
When [standardized tests] have questions/tasks that expect students to social network and engineer a solution to a problem instead of taking a multiple guess test, then maybe we will have a handle on it. I look forward to that day.
Me too, Emil. Me too.
Monday, March 17, 2008
Rather than create a blog on our network course management system (ANGEL Learning), Michelle wanted to create an internet-based blog. This would allow her to invite other students, teachers of German, and even native Germans and German-language speakers to visit the class blog and comment on the students' work. What we had talked about in the blog training was that this "instant global exposure" can cause students to take much more seriously what previously might have been just a classroom exercise - because only the teacher (and perhaps the students in class) would read it, it wasn't a very "real-world" exercise.
We started to set up the blog on Blogger, only to find that just beyond the sign-in page, the website was blocked by our district's internet filtering software. We tried a different service - Edublogs - to find the same problem arising. It's not the entire blog service that's blocked; I know some specific blogs have been passed through the filter (this one, for instance). Instead, it's the blog management page that's blocked.
What that means is for some of these third-party internet tools, if teachers in my district want to use them, they need to use them primarily from home. This means setting up and posting to blogs, managing comments (probably from students), etc. While I have many tech-savvy teachers at my school that would be fine with this, that's not really the point of my job - I'm trying to help the ones that aren't quite that tech-savvy get there, and that's tough to do if they have to do it themselves all from home.
This issue is actually secondary to my point in this post. My district is very forward-thinking towards classroom technology. Every permanent classroom in the entire district has a Promethean interactive whiteboard; every portable has ActivSlate technology. We have computer labs, a bevy of professional and educational software for teachers and students, and the district has been recognized for its efforts in implementing classroom technology. (A couple of articles about it are on my district's website.)
With so many tools emerging every year for teachers and students to use, I think the crucial missing piece is showing teachers how to manage the technology in their classrooms. Students are using these tools much more than teachers are - shouldn't teachers be able to at least relate to the software and show how students can use it effectively, even if they aren't using it as much as their students?
I've been reviewing training topics for next year, and I want to include some professional development that's not just "how-to's." I'd like to share with teachers how to teach students to use these tools properly. This new generation of interconnected, interpersonal information is going to take entirely different mental tools to use properly - tools that today's teachers probably and for the most part aren't yet teaching. It's one of the most exciting and frustrating things about education - always getting to be, and at the same time having to be on the cutting edge.
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
I wonder how many of these elements student bloggers (or teacher bloggers) are aware of? How would their writing be affected by a greater understanding of this map? My initial reaction is that if students really knew that the online words they write would find their way to search engines, or that depending on the content their words might be seen by corporate representatives - for good or for ill - how much more care would they take in writing and proof-reading their own work and the work of their peers?
Monday, March 3, 2008
I particularly like the description of the new kind of student, one who can choose what kind of tool or tools to use to collect and synthesize information. The 21st century classroom is not one in which students are expected to memorize or regurgitate raw information - it is one in which these students learn how to turn raw information into a useful schema of knowledge.
But how much will this replace traditional teaching? Of the whole of human knowledge, how much still needs to be delivered from teacher to student? So many teachers are used to covering "the curriculum" - the details that are considered important for students to learn. But how much of that information is essential - how much will be retained as those students become productive citizens? The teacher can serve as a “filter” to focus the students’ learning on the essential information – minutia can be gleaned from information on the web, in books, or whenever the need arises.
What are the new strategies that need to be present in the 21st century classroom? What percentage of classroom teaching needs to be on the “facts”, and what percentage needs to be on teaching students to work with the facts – critical thinking, analysis, source evaluation, synthesis, etc.? I'd like to think that the 21st century classroom is evaluated not on the "facts" - the teaching of facts becomes moot - but rather on what kinds of thinkers it produces.
Friday, February 22, 2008
- "Common-man publishing" like blogs, wikis, and webpages do not provide any checks and balances that a professional writer, reporter, or journalist might have. Other than your own resources, you may not know if you're doing something wrong - illegal, defamatory, etc.
- The legal system is always at least one step behind the cutting edge of society - while there might be laws in place to stop journalists from publishing certain material, but do those same laws apply to electronic media?
There is a separate page for concerns about student blogging - there, the issues get cloudier because of the fact that schools serve in loco parentis, and occasionally need to take additional action against students who publish improper material.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Have you ever seen some of the Google doodles that appear in place of the logo for holidays or significant historic dates? Did you catch the 25th anniversary of TCP/IP this past New Year's Day? Or the 2007 holiday series? The 2006 World Cup? Louis Braille's birthday? Or one of my favorites, National Teacher Day from May 2005? (Want to see more? Go here.) Well, now it's students' turn. Doodle 4 Google gets school-age kids involved in asking "What if...?" and incorporating their answer to the question in a doodle using the Google logo. The grand prize is a $10,000 scholarship, computers for the winner and his or her school, a trip to the GooglePlex, and more. And, of course, their artwork displayed on the Google homepage - how many people are going to see that? How cool...
It's a very interesting idea... I'm going to run it by teachers and administrators at my school to see what they think. A little extra technology couldn't hurt.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
But now I find that my eye has begun to wander to another very attractive, if much less well-known, name on the web: Zoho. While it doesn't quite roll off the tongue like Google does, Zoho has a serious suite of web-based applications which not only encompass more features than the comparable apps in Google Docs - it has more applications, such as a database manager (Zoho Creator), web conferencing (Zoho Meeting), online organizer (Zoho Planner), and project management software (Zoho Projects). While I haven't yet had a chance to delve deeply into all of the applications, I suspect that it may become my new favorite web-toy.
While an entirely online office suite may not be the most appropriate for schools to use exclusively, it does present some interesting options:
- Zoho Meeting could allow teachers and students to conduct online study sessions, or even teleconference in other classrooms for a collaborative lesson.
- Documents and presentations could be imported into Zoho Writer and Zoho Show, which in turn could be imported into Zoho Notebook to create a virtual professional learning conference - or to make all of the materials from a face-to-face conference available to a wider audience.
- Zoho Wiki could be used by a teacher to create a class webpage - or by students to create a wiki study guide on their current unit of study.
Saturday, January 12, 2008
While a complete, one-shot overhaul is highly unlikely and could certainly be detrimental, many of the ideas proposed are starting to make their way to the forefront of education reform thinking. Here's my take on them:
How does the 24/7 internet change education? Many classroom teachers still cling to the notion that the classroom is the primary source of learning, that teachers are the primary disseminators of information, and that students must be told what to learn through lesson plans and state standards. Does classroom teaching need to have such an emphasis on the study of facts, when most (or all) of those facts are quickly available at one's fingertips? Students have more opportunity now than ever before in history to become self-guided learners - perhaps education needs to focus more on how to learn, rather than what.
With distance learning and content management systems like Moodle, the classroom no longer needs to be a physical location.
The current compulsory education model was designed for an industrial society - does that apply any longer? While some might argue that the school day mirrors the work day of a larger percentage of the working population, is it necessary for all students to attend school on the same schedule? Barring scheduling issues due to transportation, extended days may become a more viable option for students who are invested in their education, by taking opportunities to study additional interests outside their normal course of study. More and more students are working to support themselves or even their families - how do we integrate that into the school day?
How much "general education" do students need, compared to focusing on what they love? Should we revisit the age at which students can specialize in what they study? Should students be able to choose a major in high school as well as in college?
Does this lend credence to the idea of home schooling? Home schooling gives students an opportunity to study more of what interests them, and even subjects that don't in a fashion that does interest them. Home-school teachers and parents are able to take more liberties with what and how they teach, as long as students are still meeting the state requirements. Is it because they have a smaller "class size" and more personal attention, or can innovative teaching methods really be effective?
Thursday, January 10, 2008
On his 2¢ blog, David Warlick has several posts about School 2.0. He has developed an excellent graphic organizer illustrating it - hopefully he won't mind if I reproduce it here.
Several things strike me as I look at the diagram:
- School 2.0 uses verbs like create, evaluate, express, and respond.
School 1.0 uses verbs like read, listen, and remember.
- In School 2.0, learning is active. In School 1.0, learning is very passive.
- School 2.0 is learner-centered or involves teacher-learner collaboration.
School 1.0 is very teacher-centered; delivery of information is "from on high."
It takes a huge paradigm shift - and an awfully daring leap of faith - to transform a classroom from 1.0 to 2.0, not to mention what it would take to transform an entire school, school system, or national public education system.
Social software can be loosely defined as software which supports, extends, or derives added value from human social behaviour-- message boards, music taste-sharing, photo-sharing, instant messaging, mailing lists, social networking.
I think that social software and the term "web 2.0" may be somewhat interchangeable. With the development of open-source, platform-independent, web-based, collaboration-fostering tools like Basecamp, Blogger, PBWiki, Writeboard, del.icio.us, Facebook, and so many more, the model is shifting from delivered-to-the-masses to the-masses-delivering-unto-themselves.
The rise of social software I think also reflect the changing trends in education. It makes sense - people who were students when technology was gaining popularity in education are now those who are designing the next generation of technology. It makes me wonder what the students of today will create - and are we serving that future by how we teach with technology in schools today?
Well, let me start with started me. I am an instructional technology specialist for a large high school north of Atlanta, GA. Part of my job involves training teachers on using various technology tools in the classroom - that includes co-teaching in the classroom, conducting professional development sessions, researching new tools and developing classroom applications, etc. And while I love my job and enjoy working with the faculty at my school, I can't help but acknowledge that not every single teacher is receptive to everything I have to teach them. Why not get more out of my efforts by sharing what I've learned and developed with a larger audience?
I think it also can serve as - if you, dear reader, will forgive the guttural imagery - a "brain dump." I stumble across various articles, conversations, ideas, etc. that don't necessarily fit into a training or a tutorial, but are still worthy of sharing.
I am by no means the authority on everything educationally technological, but that's part of the wonder of tools like blogs. I can share what I know, and my readers can learn from it. In return, readers can leave comments which can direct me to additional resources, tools, and so forth. I have a list (to the right) of other blogs, wikis, and such that I've been checking out to see what others have learned before me.
So, enough for this first post - before I lose what few readers I might have left. This blog is just one element of my additional technological resources. If you are so inclined, check out techieteacher, my educational technology website.
And if you have something to share with me, please do. The more, the merrier...