Tuesday, August 11, 2009

How Do We Respond to Challenges?

How do we as teachers respond to new learning and/or teaching challenges. Do we take the initiative to solve our own problems (lifelong learner) or do we simply wait on the escalator?

Teaching, Training, Enabling

Today in long term leadership planning someone made the observation that perhaps not enough technology training opportunities have been made available. As a the main person responsible for providing said training I took exception to that.

I basically defended myself by saying "I don't turn anyone away". My principal had a problem with my statement and went on to quote the fisherman quote (see below). I have been a long time subscriber to the "teach a man to fish" philosophy but realize that people do need some basic idea of what involved in fishing. Fishing a pond, the ocean, and a river all require different techniques and sometimes you need to at least point someone in the right direction.

Tonight I come home recently re-energized about blogging after spending a day listening to Will Richardson speak with our school district. I popped open the bloglines account and Bill Ferriter was posting about a Scott McLeod post regarding codependence issues of "trainers" and their learners (teachers and admin).

The comments to each article are fascinating and may be summed up as "teachers need to step up their game". While I generally agree that teachers needs to "step it up" I wonder how many will until their job requirement or perhaps self-perception about those requirements change. I wonder how many commenters were classroom teachers themselves and not just tech staff...perhaps some were like me a hybrid position that wears both hats.

Teachers need to figure out how to restructure what they do and how they do it. I went back to the classroom for one school year several years back (after being in tech for 10 years) and one of the most time consuming parts of the job was the amount of paperpushing that happened. A teacher invests a big chunk of time in pushing papers at students and then retrieving those papers. The saddest part of the transaction is that very often this transaction is little more than an exercise in futility. A teacher is pushing paper at the students. The students may experience multiple paper pushers each day. The students' job becomes to fill out those papers and push them back at the teacher. In a perfect world the teacher reviews the papers as way to better understand what was learned and what has yet to be learned. In reality the teacher is so consumed with the retrieval of the papers from all students leaving little time for meaningful feedback. Sometimes the teacher makes the extra effort to provide that specific feedback only to find the feedback in the recycle bin. Yet, we keep on doing that. Pushing the paper back and forth and keeping track of who completed what (not who learned what) exhausts a teacher leavning little time for new learning.

Let's leave technology out of the equation for a minute. I am still amazed how little discussion might be generated about some powerful learning change on the horizon. Interesting discussions I've tried to start recently in the lounge with staff include the changing world (ie Flat World), the power of formative assessment, professional learning communities, and personal learning networks. The conversation lasts briefly and quickly shifts back to last night's episode of Dancing with the Stars, American Idol, or some other chewing gum for the brain program.

My concern is not about learning new technology...but rather the "typical" teacher's general lack of willingness to learn something new, anything new.....the lack of willingness to explore, argue, debate, discuss....all those things required to learning something new that may actually make us better teachers or at least more informed individuals.

Google for tech support!

You have to love Google. Yes, the company is great. Thank you Google for all the great stuff you make available. But what I was referring to was good old fashioned Google searching.

So many monitors have better resolution these days and I figured I should widen my blog so that objects I embed don't have to be so small. I knew this involved editing my Blogger template and the prospect of that was slightly better than changing the registry on my machine. Both are places I just try not to touch.

I figured I would give it a try anyways. With the brute force of Google I was able to find how to widen my blog appearance...making better use of most screens. That a created a new issue as one column of blog bumped right up against another column in my blog. Once again....thank you Google and thank you bloggers who post about this very thing.

Finally I realized that the line spacing of my posts were messed up which frankly made them somewhat hard to read. Not sure when that happened...it may have happened tonight when I was tinkering. But once again Google connected me to the right teacher to learn how to do this.

I took everyone's suggestion and backed up my template before completely breaking it so I would have something to fail back on. Blogger even allowed me to preview the changes to the template in a new window to see the impact of the changes. So I was able to have one window with the old blog appearance and another window with the new blog appearance. Once I was able to visually verify that the change worked all I had to do was save the template.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Are the digital texts really on the way?

The New York Times published an article today about digital textbooks making their way into classrooms. I am fascinated about the move to digital texts as it just makes so much sense for so many reasons. Textbooks are linear and most teachers I work with don't teach content in a textbook linear structure. The textbook (except for Math) has become more of a resource for teachers and students that gathers dust until someone needs to look something up or there is a relevant section. However, I think the dust gets a bit thicker between uses. It doesn't matter that is has taken an economic downturn to push districts (esp. California) to look into these changes. There was one quote that was especially fascinating to me about schools that fail to make the switch to digital texts.

“In five years, I think the majority of students will be using digital textbooks,” said William M. Habermehl, superintendent of the 500,000-student Orange County schools. “They can be better than traditional textbooks.”

Schools that do not make the switch, Mr. Habermehl said, could lose their constituency.

“We’re still in a brick-and-mortar, 30-students-to-1-teacher paradigm,” Mr. Habermehl said, “but we need to get out of that framework to having 200 or 300 kids taking courses online, at night, 24/7, whenever they want.”

I'm glad the books are somewhere in the future....but when did we do something because we could lose our "constituency"? States are tinkering with charter and online schools but are those "choices" viable options for a suburban college bound student? I've read Christensen's book Disrupting Class and I find the idea of the cycle of innovation fascinating. I also shop with my feet....I go where I think I get the best product or the best deal...hopefully both. However, can our nation's communities really do the same thing? Will schools really tumble or at least change because of the innovation on the horizon. I am skeptical if not downright doubtful. Public schools are essentially a monopoly...particularly K-12. Schools are the slowest changing and possibily most insulated social institution. At this point in time I am putting my money on schools as being able to not change their model. Our basic public education has remained largely intact for the past 100 years...and I believe it will continue to do so.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Questions for Will Richardson.....

1. I am brand new to all this Web2.0 information and can't believe how far behind I am. I am a high school math teacher and have spent some time reviewing the math examples you mention in your site, especially Darren Kuropatwa's blog. Are there any other math references that you would recommend as I begin my journey? Also curious as what tool you would recommend when it comes to working with math equations and graphing functions? I have worked almost exclusively with MathType and the TI graphing calculators. What else do you recommend for math teachers to explore?

2. Teachers that are taking this class, I believe for the most part after reading your book, are sold on Web 2.0 technologies and the whole idea that it is our responsibility to get children ready for their future...even though it is a future that we can't quite predict. However, teachers don't generally get to set policy. How does a teacher or group of teachers go about educating admin. and board members? Mark

3. The answers to so many things we had to memorize as students in school is so easily found in seconds these day via the Internet. For years we had the debate at school as to whether or not students should memorize the capital of each state. I can see this as an example of information we no longer need students to memorize. However, another part of me feels there are just some things students should know. Do you have a "rule of thumb" to help educators determine what we need to let go?
Betsy Gentile

4. Will, I've been asked to lead an online discussion in December for The Ohio Writing Project. Many of the participants (k-12 teachers) might be "tech-leery." Is there a tool I should be considering that is effective but also really easy to use?
Betsy Woods

5. Any new web 2.0 tools that you've recently come across?
Betsy Woods

6. I see tons of possibilities for using all the tools in middle and high school classes, but do you have suggestions for how to use it in younger grades where they do not have as much computer experience, access, or the skills needed to use all these tools?
Thanks, Jen Young

7. At my school I co-chair the tech committee. I am very much interested in getting our staff and students to be familiar with these Web 2.0 tools. It would be very cool to run paperless classrooms. Do most schools who run a paperless program have one to one computer access for students? Right now we have one lab and two laptop carts. How do you move staff and students towards these Web 2.0 tools when computer access is somewhat limited?
Thanks Andrea

8. I was lucky enough to be part of a PLP cohort during the past school year. What's the best thing you've seen come out of this program? Has anyone taught you anything during the process? Kristen

9. I'm really interested in learning more about how cell phones can be used in the classroom. I teach in an economically diverse district with a wide digital divide -- but nearly every student has an internet connected cell phone. Can you recommend some resources for learning more? Alli

10. Any tips for dealing with the high school grade grubbers who hate collaborative work on-line? Better yet, any tips for dealing with their class-rank conscious parents who keep track of every point on their parent access page? Alli

11. I am a fourth grade teacher. I'm also interested in hearing some good classroom uses of Web 2.0 tools for younger kids. I'm especially interested in your thoughts on creating a class blog and how to ensure internet "safety" for nine and ten year old students. -- Katie Naegeli

12. I get many questions each year from parents (and other teachers) about internet safety. How do you address online safety with your students? I would really like to address this topic much more in my technology classroom this year. Thanks! Lori F.

13. I'm excited after what I've read about Wikis in your book. I'm wondering how to manage this in my classroom. Do students build these during class time or edit these from their homes? How have teachers accessed their students' work, especially since students can play various roles including contributors and editors? Judy

14. Will, which of the web tools that you talk about in your book do you feel would be most useful in the Kindergarten classroom. In our district, some children come to Kindergarten reading & most can decode by the end of the year. We also spend time in Writing Workshop & conduct author studies from which the children are encouraged to use features of a particular author's craft (labeling, bold print, speech bubbles) in their own writing. Thanks for your time & input!!

15. Stone Age Schools
I am a 6th grade Social Studies teacher as well as on our district's technology committee. I feel that our school and education in general are behind the speed of technology. How do we encourage (but really push) administrators and teachers to move forward at a faster pace to engaging student learning through the use of technology in the classroom?

With the need for better understanding and utilization of web 2.0 technologies which requires internet access, what are your thoughts on one-to-one computing? Kerry

16. School Filters
How do we convince our administrators to loosen our Internet filter so that our students will have access to some of these social networking tools in the classroom? The "walled garden" approach is great, but sometimes we need access to the wide open Internet.

17. Communication with students
What is the best method of communication with our students? I've tried communication via email, cell phone, text messaging, facebook & blackboard with little success. I even tried all of the above for the same message and it still left some out. It seems no matter which method I use, some students either aren't connected or don't check in a timely fashion. Communication is so easily accessible these days with so many different modes, but some students don't seem to care. Games and social interactions are what they like. Hence my attempt at facebook, but apparently all students aren't there. I'd very much like to find a vehicle that would connect all when not in class. Thanks for writing a great book about a growing trend in our society in which us educators need to get in the game.

18. Read/Write Web in the Elementary Classroom
Of all the read/write to the web tools that you discuss in your book, which one(s) do think are the most powerful for the elementary classroom? I know that I cannot tackle everything in one year, so I want to pick one or two areas to focus in on including in my classroom this year. I also want to choose what would seem to be the most successful for fourth grade students. I appreciate any and all suggestions and insights.
Thank you for writing a book that a "non-techie" person could really understand and enjoy!

19. Student/Parent Response to Web 2.0 tools in the classroom
How have students and parents responded to increasing technology use in the classroom? We use blackboard at IH (for example), and some students like it. Others lament that we're trying to do too much. What about the cost involved? For example, we want our students in FL to record with voicethreads at home or maybe make screencasts. We thought about putting a computer microphone on the supplies list, but we thought it might be too much money. I went to buy one at Staples for this class, and the cheapest they had was $20. That would be on top of other supplies and the fees they already pay for a non-AP class. I know some have built in microphones, but what about the others? How about computer speed at home? I would guess that most of our students have high-speed internet and updated programs/operating systems, but again, not everyone. I was thinking too about the cuts here in the public library budget, so the kids that don't have access have less opportunity there. Thanks in advance for your comments! Kari

Sunday, August 2, 2009

2 Million Minutes--pt 1

Please use the comments area to post your thoughts on part 1 of our 2 Million Minutes viewing

Willingham--Thoughts on Part 1

Please use the comments area to post your thoughts on part 1 of our Willingham presentation.

TechTuneUP09: Assignments.PDF

TechTuneUP09: Assignments

Independent Project
We meet for approximately 25 hours during this class. Although I do present new information each day, the majority of class time is left for individual teachers to pursue their own special project in a supported environment. This project is an ideal chance for you to learn something new or to continue new learning efforts, to design a technology infused lesson/unit, or further explore any of the topics we learn about during the week. In the past people have built webpages, developed their Blackboard courses, learned new pieces of software, created instructional videos, designed new curriculum, created practice achievement test items or other formative assessment items, as well as many other different projects. On Tuesday you will give a brief “project share” to the class concerning what you are doing. On Friday you will present the progress of your project sharing more specifics of your project and the progress that you made and new learning you acquired. Specific materials you’ve created should also be shared.

Data Analysis and Implications for Improvement
Data analysis allows us to look back and see how our students did on specific tasks. It is most powerful when we use it to guide our future instruction. By the end of the week you will need to apply what you learned in this class to analyze the data available to you. Your assignment should include a look back (ie how your students performed and any specific observations you have about those results). More useful to you will be your statement of how last year’s results will impact your teaching this year. To do this you will need to think about your own teaching last year as well as the results of the students that you will be teaching this year (ie how did they do before coming to you and what implications for instruction does this have?). I also ask that you briefly share your “discoveries/plans” in your share out on Friday.

This assignment needs to be sent to Dr. Ault, Dr. Knudson, your building administrator, and me via email before leaving on Friday.

* Ideally your data assignment would guide/intertwine with your Independent project

Why Don’t Students Like School Blog Posts
Throughout the week I will be sharing information from Dan Willingham’s book Why Don't Students Like School: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom. Willingham tells us that we learn what we think about at the time of the learning (this will make more sense later) so in following with his ideas I would like you to post comments to the techtuneup blog concerning each section as we review it related to the information presented and what you are thinking about Willingham’s information about learning.

2 Million Minutes Blog Posts
Throughout the week I will be sharing the documentary 2 Million Minutes. The hour long movie attempts to draw a comparison between US, Indian, and Chinese education systems, the students which participate in those systems, and the societies which support those systems. I would like you to post your thoughts/reactions/reflections about each section as we watch it to the techtuneup blog.

Power Up Your PLN
How do you get “better” as a teacher? Willingham talks about the difference between experience and practice. If you are in this class I would argue that you are a practitioner…you are here with the intent of getting “better” of improving as an educator.
We will go into more detail with “practice” when we discuss Willingham. One cannot improve without feedback. One cannot continue to learn without continue to building their knowledge base and although I don’t have an assignment for this I hope each teacher would consider their sources for new learning and how they can expand or perhaps focus their new learning sources.

New Tools
Throughout the class I will be presenting a variety of new tools for you to consider using personally, professional, and with your students. It is my goal that each of you try out one of the new tools (or tool new to you) and incorporate somehow into your independent project and brief share out on Friday.

Discussion Board participation/TechTuneUp Blog
There may be times in class that I need to hear everyone’s voice or ideas about a specific topic. This will be done via a discussion board or the techtuneup blog (techtuneup.blogspot.com) in which all participants can read and comment to each other to keep conversations going. I will announce if I’ve anything for discussion.

Any resources and handouts given in class will also be shared in on techtuneup.blogspot.com.