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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Proliferation of Web 2.0 Apps,, Teach the People, others

We know about Wikis, podcasts, blogs, Google apps (which seem to be increasing nearly every day - what about Google Sky, huh?  Amazing, and so many educational possibilities), Twitter, etc.  But there are new ones coming up all the time.  Tuesday I met with Jack Phelps to see which is an answer to Blackboard and Moodle, but adds a lot more, such as math functionality with a teacher-friendly approach.  It's being written in Ruby on Rails.  Could be very useful to schools - and right now they're looking for schools to pilot it - for free.  I've also been speaking with the people running Teach the People which is still in beta but is another fascinating concept - taking the idea (not the content) already done by several universities that are putting their curriculum online for everyone - but adding more tracking, feedback and other features.  They're also in beta and looking for participants.

All very exciting possibilities - and both headed up by Millenials - born after 1980 - who never knew about a life without computers as completely part of their environment. I wonder what else Millenials will come up with - probably more amazing things to transform teaching, learning and communities.   Makes me think of how important our jobs as educators are - to be sure technology is used in meaningful ways - and that our students learn about discerning use of technology and how the world can be improved with technology.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Pushing The Higher Ed Envelope

 Just read this article in the in South Dakota which contained the quote from a regents administrator:

"K-12 is moving in their technology and we have no other choice.." - Regent James Hansen of Pierre, SD, above referenced article.

The "moving in their technology" is laptops in K-12 schools, which South Dakota has made a priority.  I was in Mitchell in June as a keynote at their excellent Laptop Institute which was partly held at DSU and involved teachers, administrators, and professors from Dakota State.

South Dakota, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Maine, and Michigan all have statewide laptop programs, and many states have district-wide programs.  So these students are now arriving at colleges and universities and pushing the envelope for more use of 1-to-1 for productivity and for teaching.  

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Integrating Technology Into Our Thinking About School Reform

All these things converged recently through conversations and reading blogs - about technology and integration of technology into our thinking much more thoroughly about school reform.

One was reading Will Richardson's post from August 7 (above snippet.) where he quoted Sylvia Martinez and Connecting Ed Tech to Ed Reform which made me think YES! (a favorite dog-eared book I can recommend by the way which is not about technology is Robert Evans "The Human Side of School Change: Reform, Resistance The Real Life Problems of Innovation") this makes so much sense - to connect educational technology to school reform.

One more thing  is that we have to be sure technology is thought of in an expansive way for teaching and learning, and not just constructivism but much more.  I always fear that we educational technologists may be boxing ourselves into an only-constructivist stance.

Then I listened to a podcast (scroll down to Episode 7 where he interviews David Elliot) from Chris Smith at Shambles (what a terrific resource) and where David Elliot talks about how his school used Grant Wiggins' Backward  Design/Understanding by Design as a framework for teaching and learning which also included technology.  

Earlier this summer I enjoyed this Teacher Tube which discussed how a Middle School in Australia had started a whole teaching and learning project - it started with having the students think about and understand how learning happens (something we often don't do - we teach the kids and expect that learning happens - but don't often talk about what learning is - what learning styles are - how the brain works.)  

Before that, I'd had a converation with Terry Dash, Director of Technology at The Pike School after she'd posted on the ISED-L listserv about a technology day involving teachers in the big picture thinking about technology -- not just having everyone view an LCD projector and show a few tech tools as so many tech professional development days often happen.  They opened up the thinking school-wide on what does successful technology use really mean.  Being in the trenches every day with teachers like Terry and so many others involves grappling with these big educational questions in a realistic way. 

Some are seeing technology as integral to teaching and learning and less as an "add on." Visiting Israel speaking and touring as part of the KATOM! Project, I was so impressed with how the teachers had actually redesigned curriculum when their students were given laptops. They didn't understand how remarkable this was - I said most U.S. schools had retrofitted technology into curriculum and not rethought or redesigned curriculum when 1-to-1 was introduced.  

Hopefully many more educators will really take this deep thinking approach to making technology integral and part of reform -- and not an add-on to what's already happening.  They'll seize the opportunity to consider the big picture and ask the tough questions about teaching and learning, how schools are changing and need to change, how the world is changing, and how technology needs to be right smack dab in the middle of it all.  

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Web 2.0, Web 1.0 and the Classroom

 I'm honing a new workshop and polishing my grad school class at Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia and both have a similar content - emerging technologies/Web 2.0 for the classroom. Also starting to think about an update to my book (which is more than a year away because of research, editing, and publishing.)  And also thinking more about Web 1.0 - how we would all accumulate lists of resources and share them and have students find them.  I'd taught a number of workshops in the past providing lists of links for teachers and the invariable question would be "what do I do with these?" and many of us would come up with scavenger hunts or Web quests and virtual field trips, etc.  All creative uses of what we had - which was the hyperlinked Web.

But the exponential, interactive nature of what there is now is so far beyond anything that was then.  

Last year during the grad school class we started out thinking about podcasts and Wikis and blogs and RSS feeds and tagging and by the end of the class everyone was coming in to show new things none of us had even seen yet - (which we all know about now) - like Twitter and PageFlakes and SecondLife and Classroom2.0.  So what are we going to see this time around?  The exponential growth of Web 2.0 applications is astounding - not yet to the growth of hardware a la Moore - but quite amazing and shows no sign of stopping.  McLuhan said when there is great change, it's the artists who really understand it as it's happening - and I know educators are artists - so I really look forward to hearing from my colleagues and grad students about new Web 2.0 developments. 

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Social Networks - New Report

edWeek's Teacher Magazine reports on a new study from the National School Boards Association  which questions some of our Internet fears for kids.  The study, which is also sponsored by MySpace's parent company News Corps, along with Microsoft and Verizon, finds the stats on children who were pursued by predators to be lower than previously stated.  It also says we should evaluate MySpace and social networks for educational uses.

So here's my opinion for what it's worth - we do have to empower children with knowledge and understanding of the Internet, and what playing in a place where everyone can be watching really means.  

But - we are just now really learning what the read/write Web fully means - and there is a huge amount of untapped possibility for every classroom that exists right now.  A lot of it is for free (now at least.)  

If you think back to the early days of the Web, so many of us were enamored with just putting up simple Web sites, and with finding things online.  People put up lists of clickable links and aggregated all sorts of Web resources ad nauseum.  Sometimes the links worked, sometimes they didn't.  There are still lots of pages like this out there.

But now interactivity rules.  Newspaper articles have comment areas.  Experts on just about everything blog.  Podcasts from conferences are available days after the event.  Wikis on any topic are there for the reading and for the editing.  It's the world now.  

Social networks are important in my opinion because community is changing and shifting and because communication, real give-and-take discourse, can happen that didn't happen with the flat Web and its lists of resources.  It's the discourse that's important.  How does that discourse happen, what is shared and what shouldn't be shared, how does living publicly in networks make or break reputations, enable or thwart learning, add to or warp knowledge, how can money be made and influence be obtained, what is kindness in the age of Web 2.0.

There are a lot of questions and the people posing these questions and ideas? Teachers.  Because we have to.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Change ... Changing ... Half-Change ....

Looking through some U.S. district education sites - interesting that some have a lengthy list of technology skills for students but then few or none for teachers. Not that I'm a fan of skill lists.  Just noting the disparity here. 

Also thinking about change - the word change meaning that something has happened and has reached the state that it's become a noun, implying some kind of permanence.  But shouldn't the word be changing ... implying growth and continual movement.  Also, is there a "half change?"

It's the half change where I am most interested and involved.  Starting from where people are right now as educators as administrators.  Kind of like Vygotsky's "Zone of Proximal Development" - and what happens just before change - the "almost" state - maybe that's pre-change.

Anyway I hope we aren't blaming the teachers for technology not being fully integrated because that's not useful or helpful.  Just a thought after a lot of blog jumping -- and noticing a dichotomy of those who are completely onboard with Web 2.0 and newer technologies and those who are just learning about them.  

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Managing the 1-to-1 Classroom

This seems to be a universal question from teachers - how to effectively manage the 1-to-1 classroom.  

So I will be designing a brand-new workshop for schools on this specifically - tips, techniques, ideas, lessons, projects, examples of how to teach when most of what you learned about classroom management from your bachelor's or master's degree program has been turned on its head.  It's completely different when resources are decentralized and every student has a laptop - because a laptop or tablet changes all our old assumptions of teaching and learning.  Which is good in most ways - you can get to the thinking faster when every student is empowered with a computer - but challenging in many ways.  

Email me if your school might be interested.