Archive for the ‘collaboration’ category

Personal Learning Networks

March 20, 2008

Know anyone like this?
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Engaged Learning

March 19, 2008

Funny how it is so much more interesting, exciting, invigorating, meaningful, memorable, personal, enjoyable, powerful, …. when we participate.

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Photo Credits

What Is Our District Offering?

February 26, 2008

Well, the latest discussion happening over on Will Richardson’s blog in conjunction with my prior blog post got me to thinking. What does our local school district offer in terms of professional development for my kids’ teachers? Are they learning about new spheres of practice, learning, communication, participation… Here is the list of what is being offered between February and June.

– IEP Open Lab

– SMART Boards for Beginners (X3)

– Social Emotional Learning Building Team Training

– Best Children’s Literature in the Classroom

– Adult CPR

– First Aid for Coaches

– Music: the Orff Express

– Web Portal Pages

– ESOL Inservice

– Para Support Group

– Implementing the District Lesson Plan Format (That sounds invigorating!)

– IEP Open Lab

– Excel Basics

– Mandarin Training Report Tool

– Building a Caring School Climate through Service Learning

– the Art of VideoStreaming

– Motivating hart to Reach, Uninterested, and Disruptive Students

– Building Circles of Support for Autistic students

– What Talented Readers Need

– Introduction to Computer Animation Basics (Art teachers only)

help.jpgAll of these topics have merit, of course. They are all important. But most are discipline specific and don’t have a wider audience appeal or relevancy. There are few general sessions that could benefit any and all teachers. But what I want to stress is that there are NO sessions dealing with Web 2.0 or any of its related technologies and certainly nothing on empowering teachers to connect, learn, contribute, participate… in larger communities of practice. So, do teachers know they can participate in such new forms of learning networks? Well, they are not learning about the possibilities in our district. So, I think Will Richardson’s estimate…

“But I would still venture to guess that 75% (maybe more) of educators in this country still don’t know that they can have this network.”

…is probably on target.

For those many teachers who can’t seem to make these after-school PD sessions for some very valid reasons (children, other jobs, other commitments or responsibilities, nothing relevant offered, no follow-up support,…), new on-line learning/networking opportunities would seem to make a great deal of sense. Do we just need to sit back and be patient in this regard? Will it come in good time… or too late?

Kitchen Conferences

February 25, 2008

So, I wanted to attend a few sessions held this weekend at Learning 2.0: A Colorado Conversation. Problem: I am at home with my two kids, activities, lunches, dishes… you know – the stuff that real life is made up of. Solution: UStream in the kitchen! I set up my laptop on the kitchen counter where I could view and participate in the sessions, and presto! The only problem was dirty or wet hands. They are not the keyboard’s best friend. And, even if I could not attend live, sessions and backchannel chats are archived.

But, I think that this type of professional development is so valuable in our busy lives. Many teachers can’t seem to find the time for professional development. Both asynchronous and in this case, synchronous (UStream, TalkShoe, Elluminate…), opportunities have really grown over the last few years. They have helped me out tremendously. However, so far, they have not really taken off in the more “scholarly” educational conference venus like SITE, AERA, NCTE, NCTM, CUE and the like. Granted, some do have a few webcast sessions, but little to no opportunity to “participate”. Of course, things like membership and dues play more of a role here, but how long are we these “fences” to professional development going to stay up in this web 2.0, connected, collaborative world? How much do such fences contribute to NOT attending?

alone.jpgFinally, those not involved in these current conversations are probably not even aware of these types of opportunities. After all, I only found out about them from reading a few select blog posts and from a few tweets that came in on folks that I follow. What about those folks who don’t have developing borderless 2.0 networks? All the more reason to hop on board, I’d say. Teachers NEED to know about these opportunities with such limitations on time, finances, and schedule.

And, just as I am writing this, Will Richardson tweeted a new post that fits like a glove here! My point exactly. No RSS? No Twitter? No Network? Then, you are most likely not to be in the “know”. Will writes:

“But I would still venture to guess that 75% (maybe more) of educators in this country still don’t know that they can have a network….The passionate learning network of which I am a part is an amazing and important part of my life. The fact that most teachers still have no idea that is possible is distressing on one hand, motivating on the other.”

I couldn’t agree more. Teachers need time to talk, share, network,… and that time is often not going to be during the school day when their students are there. But, sadly, I think, as Will writes, that most are not really aware other options. My graduate students are not aware of such options and are so excited to be learning about them in class… one class in their entire degree program. Hopefully I can get some of them to explore these “kitchen conferences” and realize that their professional world and lifeline is not contained in the walls of their school or classroom. 🙂

Google Forms with Spreadsheets

February 7, 2008

Google has now added the feature of forms to its already budding suite of word processing, presentation, and spreadsheets. Forms works in conjunction with spreadsheets and is so slick. What you do is design a new spreadsheet as if it were a form for the purpose of soliciting information from a pool of folks. Simply add categories such as name, phone number, address, etc… whatever information you are looking for. Then, under the “Share” feature, choose “Form”. form1.jpgThis option allows you to “invite” people (up to 200) to fill out your form, view the results, or become editors/collaborators (need a Google account for this) of the form/spreadsheet (Go here for more info). They each receive an active form in their email (if their local email app. allows it). Or, there is a link that they can paste into the browser that takes them to the secure location to fill out the form (no registration needed). What happens when the recipient fills out the form is it simply updates the spreadsheet that you created. Rather than share the actual spreadsheet and have invitees fill out information on it directly and risk data loss or confusion, this form option allows them to add information to the spreadsheet document without actually seeing it (although that is an option) or editing it directly. How cool is that? It worked like a charm when I tried it. Now to find a real reason to put it through its paces.

Ch. 6 – The Age of Show Business

February 2, 2008

(Continuing with my book blog club…)

Presidential Debates as Entertainment

In this chapter of Amusing Ourselves to Death, Postman begins with the claim that “Television does not extend or amplify literate culture. It attacks it.” He also continues on with his thesis that technologies are merely machines and that a ‘medium’ is the social and intellectual environment a machine creates. If this is so, then the computer and Internet are the “machines” that create a new medium of social and intellectual discourse. Since Postman clearly argues how the television has detracted from intellectual discourse and literacy throughout the world, I want to contrast this with the powerful emergence of the social and intellectual environments created on-line.

Television appeals largely to emotional and visual gratification and entertainment. Television does not embrace conversation, dialog, or debate. The presidential ‘debates’ are not really debates at all. They are entertainment with a little substance thrown. These debates are more about looking good, giving off good impressions, being witty, controlled, speaking well, showmanship, … There is really little room in the televised format for true debate. Issues are brought up, candidates respond within the constraints of allotted time and set format, and then a new question or issue is presented. Issues are not exhausted, argued in depth, or resolved. The media seems more concerned with who beat whom with little in-depth analysis of their ideas or arguments…. because there really was no depth at all. Hillary’s tear received more press than did her ideas. Barack’s slight of Hillary at President Bush’s state of the union address was given more importance than were Bush’s ideas analyzed. During the address, the cameras had to continue with rapid cut-aways to celebrities and candidates, as their visual expressions were more interesting than what the President had to say. Perhaps the cameras could catch something that would be newsworthy for days… an untimely frown from Obama, Hillary dozing off or secretly smiling at Schwarzenegger flexing his muscles, or Kennedy and Obama playing rock, paper scissors…

As Postman writes, “Thinking does not play well on television, a fact that television directors discovered long ago. There is not much to see in it… It must suppress the content of ideas in order to accommodate the requirements of visual interest.”

Americans “do not exchange ideas; they exchange images. They do not argue with propositions; they argue with good looks, celebrities and commercials.”

Then there is Web 2.0…… This is a “medium” that is giving the television world a run for its money. As educators, if we can capitalize on students’ natural proclivity for working and thinking in this environment, we just may have a chance at turning them from knowing the world through the lens of television media to truly understanding the world through personal perspective, through intelligent thinking and meaningful discourse, through communication locally, nationally, and globally with others and getting first-person perspective that does not get filtered through any other lens.

If anything, Postman’s ideas here give credence to this new 2.0 medium that has emerged. I shudder to think about all of the money that has been spent on getting television into schools and the return that it has brought – the advertising that students have been subjected to and the passive entertainment that has been disguised as learning (I am not saying that television has no value in the classroom.) How can administrators NOT get on board with this new environment that begs for intelligent thought, active literacies, collaboration, conversation, connection, creation, reflection, analysis,… Of course, it takes teachers to get on board and orchestrate all of this at some level. But it also takes informed and visionary administrators and I.T. personnel to make it happen.

As an example of the level of analysis and intelligent thought that television will not ever show (since television cannot show thought), check out Wesley Fryer’s recent post over at the Moving at the Speed of Creativity blog about NCLB.

Thank You, Network!

January 12, 2008

I just want to stop and say thank you to all of you who blog about serious and relevant issues that we are all facing today in education. Over the past few days, I have been so drawn in by the many thought-provoking and intelligent narratives found in many edublogs that I routinely read and participate in.
In a recent post by Kelly Christopherson over on LeaderTalk, he shares his observation that many teachers who struggle with using new technologies to learn, collaborate, and teach are often those who have no support networks that challenge and inspire them. These are most likely the same teachers who struggle the most with change and the learning of any new things. They have often grown stale, fearful, and uninspired. He cites a few examples within his own network and writes that these networked folks are those who…

question and challenge, helping to stretch the discussion, helping us to reflect on our ideas and thoughts while providing some great tools and insights into using web2.0 tools in teaching, these relationships help us connect and develop, grow and learn, keep our perspective and motivate us. These relationships have become a large part of how we are growing and developing our teaching and understanding. These are the relationships that those teachers not engaged DO NOT have.

I have heard Will Richardson and others also attest to the importance of their networks in their own personal learning and professional development and I can certainly attest to the value of these new networks that are independent of time and space. So, here’s to all of you who have exponentially expanded my learning network. I look forward to many more inspirational, challenging, controversial, confrontative, serious, humorous, light, passionate, and heartfelt posts and conversations.