Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!


Wishing everyone ein gutes neues Jahr! I am happily having coffee, oreos minus the trans fats (some offbrand and very good) and watching Times Square live at http://newyears.earthcam.com/ts/
Who says I need a tv?
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Sunday, December 30, 2007

looking back...looking forward


The past year has been amazing! Foremost, I am here and if you could review the reasons I say that you would be as incredulous as I. Secondly, I have learned an incredible amount! Thirdly, I have shared an incredible amount of what I have learned. This seventh year of the twentyfirst century has been quite a year!
The first reason for an amazing year is simply for me that I am here. The short story is that I have a congenital brain disorder. The malformation in my brain bled in 2004. I just had an angiogram to see whether the main feeding artery is gone. Results have not yet been determined.
My learning, the second main development this year, is influenced by what I read in my aggregator, hear in podcast subscriptions, and discover from my learning network. I have learned how to webcast (thank you Webcastacademy),how to use an aggregator to manage RSS subscriptions, how to make a video, & how to use Twitter to access and grow my personal learning network.
In 2008, I look forward to working on courses for certification, attending conferences both virtually and f2f, & learning more about video editing. I haven't blogged while enjoying this holiday and hope to get back into it this week....
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Photo by Countdown Entertainment LLC
http://www.timessquarenyc.org/nye/nye.html

Sunday, December 23, 2007

History Makers

Fröhliche Weihnachten!


John 14:12


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What makes a good image?

Hanspeter Pfister, Harvard Professor, recently spoke about effective visualisations. This is a right-brained intelligence, to use popular terms, that represents information in ways that left-brained linguistic academicians don't comprehend quickly. Visualisations are at their core patterns.
Patterns are everywhere. Programming requires our brains to see patterns. Musical ability requires hearing patterns. Design used in many fields involves recognising, using, & creating patterns. Shareski recently created a wellknown keynote address involving principles of design. Computer programming requires manipulation of patterns.
Being a learner in k12, I see a need for me to devote more time to choosing & using effective images with fellow learners. Learners will use this skill in business applications, in creations of their own, & in programming computers I can't even imagine.
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Friday, December 21, 2007

It's really a conversation

Twitter is a social networking tool. Lately, I have run across several disturbing discussions regarding Twitter. It seems people insist that they need to 'keep up' with those they follow. They feel the need not to miss a single tweet.
When there is a crowd in a room, are you able to follow what each person says? No, of course not. Then why do we feel a need to follow written text (in 140 characters or less) better than we do the spoken word?
I feel no such responsibility. I probably miss many great things, but I am not Inspector Gadget. When I am able to return to Twitter, I read the page top to bottom and that is it. I cannot contribute to oral conversations without missing something. I do not expect myself to contribute to written conversations without missing something.
When I do miss something (which is probably more than I realise), I can always ask followers on Twitter and within a few moments they will post the answer for me. An example is twittering from a cell phone. I know that has appeared on Twitter beforehand and I forgot how. Someone posted it again when I forgot. I'm sure if I went and asked again, that question would be answered again.
My personal learning network is epitomized by Twitter, a 24/7 online, global network of fellow learners.
Why aren't we talking about learning networks in our classrooms? Why aren't we asking fellow learners to not only be more aware of these networks but to develop their learning networks?
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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

EduTwitterverse Holiday Exchange!

Dembo had a great idea - thanks Steve! I got my gift, accompanied by a book, today-

Fröehliche Weihnachten Cindy Lane!

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Who is Friend, who is Foe?


It bothers me that there is a dividing wall between those people whom society considers teachers and those people whom society considers students. I have never sensed this division, maybe because I attended a Quaker high school, where such divisions did not exist even in our speech. Before high school, I was probably too young to care, it has been a very long time.
I do remember high school, as I imagine all high school learners do. What will those learners remember and learn from you? I treat all learners the same, whether they are 92 or 14. I interact with an intellect, I guide a brain, I use the tools I have been given to me to help them think. I put up no artificial boundary wall between learners. Such a wall does not exist in the 'real' world, why should it exist anywhere else? I am conversing with learners via Meebo or Skype outside the prescribed walls, prescribed bells, prescribed schedules. I see nothing wrong with this and obviously neither do those learners or their parents.
We need to destroy these vestiges of industrial age education and move on. Twenty-first learning is 24/7, it is via Meebo IMs, it is via Skype. Lifelong learning does not happen in a box, neat rows, according to a bell schedule, cafeteria-style menu, or only within four walls.
Either we embrace 21st century learning fully or we don't. There is no middle of the road. The new paradigm insists we are all learners here. Are you?
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Monday, December 17, 2007

Digital Communications

It is necessary to teach learners how to have digital communications. It is not innate, it is a learned skill. Learners need to be safe, be courteous, & be understood. These lessons are best scaffolded beginning in the intermediate grades. Digital Communications is a 21st century skill that empowers learners, making them better learners, better thinkers, & better producers.

Seventh grade learners in my class today played a game about instant messaging safety, took a quiz, then IM'd me the results. These learners flew through the expectations today, quickly getting to the games/Meebo section of the class. These learners, how will I keep up with them?

After students IM'd me their scores, I included them in a Meebo room for our class. Since I was busy responding and recording as well, they quickly lost interest and went their own ways. We did succeed in creating several aliases and Meebo accounts today and learned about IM safety. I'm still trying to coax a famous blogger to show up digitally on Wednesday to teach us about the necessity of creating and using a pseudonymn online. Any takers?
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Take the Plunge!



Not the Nestea Plunge, but the kiva plunge. I have joined those involved in the world of microfinance. I could loan as little as $25 to someone I choose after reading their profile. I then click through to the checkout, just like online shopping. Kiva asks me for either a credit card or paypal. It's so easy.
So this holiday, get into the mood by loaning out of your abundance to someone who does not have enough. It won't hurt and may be infectious!
There are teachers already using kiva in their classrooms. I am thinking of doing this too after our break. The possibilities are exciting!
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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Life Integration

Seventeenth-century English author John Donne is often quoted: No man is an island, entire of itself...any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind...
Several seemingly unrelated events occurred today: our school had a praise n' worship concert led by Wings of the Morning and David Edwards.
A multitude of students signaled their surrendering of their lives' to our Lord.
Then I had the great pleasure of participating in a DEN webinar where I heard Dan Pink. Many of us had heard this presentation before, but he always seems to bring in something new to ponder, or maybe I just listen better on repeated hearings (what a good reason for us to podcast and ask learners to listen repeatedly to crucial classes!)
He spoke of our need to invest more in the arts, not less. We so need to integrate the arts into all we do. Today in fact, I pulled into a 3rd grade lesson on the computer ideas relevant to Advent. We read a Bible verse (older learners are led to biblegateway for all the translations - a great site for our Bible courses), we listened to a audio clip from the Messiah, we played concentration on an electronic Advent calendar. I was integrating the arts without really thinking about it. As I write this I am listening to the Messiah. We must give this gift to all our learners, as our parents gave it to us.
He did say autonomy is so important, a theme you have read here recently. That early gift came back today. I have Open Lab time after school and he had detention. He worked on his movie nonstop, delving into transitions. He saw immediately that he needed to align the transitions with the musical beats without my suggestion. There are some things he will still have to learn that will not be so interesting and that worries me.
Dan Pink advocates focusing on intrinsic motivation. In the Poptech talk I seem to remember he advocated empathy as well. Two skills that I believe we can strengthen and must not ignore just because they are difficult. I'm seeing some amazing work out of learners I never could have predicted but at the same time I see an alarming lack of empathy that is not being addressed by the family unit. These points are what tie the two events together. Those who give their lives are intrinsically motivated to do so and are empathetic to others. The first was also a concert, the second emphasised the arts. Seemingly unrelated or should I say the left brain sees no connection. The right brain sees a clear connection.
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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Only 14 days!

I received an early Christmas gift this afternoon! A very disinterested young man was challenged to create a video in twelve slides using Windows Movie Maker with my required three pieces of a story, a title page, a credits page, & music.
I was not prepared for the wildfire I ignited. He was so totally enraptured that he came during a study hall to work on it. He did twenty slides (as of 3:20pm), finished the title page and credits page, and was starting to explore transitions when the bell rang. He saved to his flash drive and bounced out of class. The look of happiness was my gift!
The importance of engaging our learners has been driven home once again! When learners enter our rooms are they meeting sages on stages, educators who can do know wrong? Are they being prompted to take the lead, to raise the bar, to reach for the stars?
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Sunday, December 9, 2007

Students 2.0

I just witnessed history...and herstory too. The much anticipated Students 2.0
opened their blogging doors for business at 8:00pm EST this evening. Their writing is mature, their sentence structure more complex than their age would belie.

I urge everyone to go read and maybe enter into the conversations going on over there. I counted 20 some comments and more coming in....
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Change

I'm rereading a post by David Warlick, My Apologies, and I must admit I am somewhat confused. He speaks of educators resistant to the changing landscape of education. David speaks to many school entities (and gets to sample the local Starbucks all over the world!)
I did my teacher training in the 1980s and 1990s. The 'changes' were the foundational curriculum then. Why is it so difficult for teachers to 'change' to align with best practices? I have heard podcasts of David speak, and he is not overbearing or radical. In fact, he is a very polite Southern gentleman.
Yet he reports that overall he finds educators wary of the 'changes' he advocates. This is where I am confused, not by what he says, but by the attitudinal walls that so many of us observe.
Education has already embraced change. I was taught about MI Theory, guide-on-the-side, differentiation, content area integration, wait time (teachers still not doing it!), and a myriad of other change agents. What on earth is so difficult about integrating technology?
David says we need to reinvent education. That is true and my ideal is far more radical I fear. But for the immediate future, we only need to refine that which we have already changed.
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Friday, December 7, 2007

Here Comes the Judge...

Remember the Sammy Davis, Jr. skit on Laugh-In? Well, world, here come the stakeholders!

Students 2.0 Launch Teaser from Sean on Vimeo.

Are we inflexible?

A recent webcast advocated for a personal disengagement of educators from the conceptual age schools. The webcast was against moving education out of industrial age, 8-3, when-the-bell-rings, boxed in four walls type of schools. They supported the separation of the schoolhouse from the revered weekend.
I often IM or otherwise chat with fellow learners at my school. Learning, hence education, is 24/7. If students need me, they know how to find me, where to find me, and how to get my attention. I do not see a problem with this at all. I have used IM to tutor students about homework problems.
Just because the dismissal bell rings on Friday does not mean that I stop being who I am. I am who I am, and that am happens to be a learner who learns along with other learners. I am happy to help others as I can. whether it be 24/7 or not. I think there is a big difference between the social networking sites they mentioned and IMing or Skype. Once other learners realise that is mrsdurff, they go invisible (yeah, I'll show 'em how if they ask) or don't IM me. That is fine. But I am accessible. That is what is important.
The prevalent attitudes of industrial age education really need to change. I am surprised that such great minds would give voice to these attitudes that are so blatantly inflexible.
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Thursday, December 6, 2007

Literacy - leaping or lumbering?

Beginning in the 4th grade learners begin to use reading to learn other content areas. They need a basic literacy in reading to accomplish this. Learners often gain writing literacy concurrent to reading literacy. Arithmetical literacy is developed separately. Well developed literacies have long been assumed necessary to success in life.

A basic reading literacy is often assumed to be sufficient. Does that really mean a phonetic, sounding it out kind of word calling or is the comprehension of material read? If it is comprehension, then at what grade level? The majority of the American public read newspapers written at a 5th grade level. That is elementary school. Is that really enough? Why are learners stopping on that plateau? Many national reports have lamented the decline in reading following the 1940s and the rise in tv viewing since. This correlation is assumed to be causation, and it may well be.

A new literacy is now needed. In this age of the internet, digital literacy is needed. Will a rise in internet time raise reading time? I spend 80% of online time reading and writing after all. I am hardly illiterate unless you ask the learners at my school. Then you will discover how ignorant I truly am.

Will we define a proficiency level for digital literacy? What level will be considered sufficient for a successful life? Another thought that annoys me: why are these literacies thought to act independently of each other and why are they taught inside boxes? Why can't we draw the box around all the subjects, integrate all the separate subjects, and have learning studios a la Clarence Fischer?

Even more radically - why not throw out the cafeteria style high school Carnegie units altogether? Replace the outdated with learning studios where learners work under a lead learner, invoking the knowledge and expertise of other learners as needed. A learning studio would be a place where virtual conversations are prevalent, where reading, writing, arithmetical, & digital literacies soar well above the 5th grade level. These learning studios would be places that are visited almost 24/7 by experts in fields that of interest to learners.

Remember when the expert in nanotechnology visited a high school classroom in Georgia because the textbook wasn't sufficient? Imagine learning studios where this happened all the time. Imagine a place where learners gather at all hours to confer with international experts in many time zones. This is the future of schools I have imagined since my youth. I am not a patient person (many will attest to that). When will we get on with it?
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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

See the Elephant through stories of WWII Veterans'

Ken Burns talks about making films for PBS so a whole generation is not ignorant of these facts

A live webcast tomorrow at 21:00GMT & more information is available at http://okwwii.wetpaint.com/page/Videoconferencing?t=anon
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Best Practices

The k12 American education required is largely industrial-age, lecture-based, non-differentiated, & incredibly non-engaging to today's learners. Yesterday I had a young man catapult himself over three library tables not because he was bored in my class but because he was bored all morning. As an educational system, should we be issuing consequences or engaging such students?
I suggest that by incorporating multiple intelligences & bloom's taxonomy with technology and by differentiating for individual differences, educators will not only be using best practices but will engage such learners. An excellent resource for planning is a spreadsheet combining multiple intelligences with Bloom's taxonomy, like those available at this site.
Learners do need to meet us half way by following certain ground rules, like focusing on lessons, playing after work is done, not using specific sites at school, & being respectful of all learners. Schools have been successful because they agreed on and operated on certain rules. It is up to older learners to inculcate younger learners in the rules of the culture.
Utilising the best possible practices is why schools pay us educators - doing what we are paid to do. I do find it difficult to fathom when people do not immediately employ best practices in education. If it is our job to do so, failing to do so would be to penalise tomorrow's citizens. Do we want to meet our Lord with that on our plate? Are we who we want to be?
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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Tagging to a new taxonomy

On Monday December 10, 2007 at 23:00GMT It's Elementary Show #11 will webcast a live, interactive show about tagging with guest Steve Hargadon. It's Elementary is webcast at edtechtalk. To join the show log-in to the chatroom (no password required) and listen on another tab by clicking on the black icon on the listen page. Your computer will open a player and start playing the stream for you. The show will center around tagging, what it is and why one should do it. The main tagging sites are del.icio.us, Diigo, and Technorati.
Dean Shareski wrote a great post about del.icio.us entitled "Del.icio.us as the precursor to Twitter" In it he describes how he subscribes to del.icio.us feeds of people in his circle of wisdom. This is an excellent way to exploit del.icio.us and RSS for use in your personal learning network!
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Sunday, December 2, 2007

A Cunning Guise

I had the pleasure yesterday of listening to Don Giovanni on the radio as I drove home from a friend's. The plot revolves around a cunning man who beguiles three woman. This wonderful opera by Mozart made me think. Are we, as lead learners in our classrooms, hiding behind a deception?
I propound that educators have traditionally hidden behind a guise. That disguise assumes the educator is always right, always has the one answer, & should never be questioned. I was fortunate enough to have a high school education that assumed none of these and encouraged all students to question, challenge, & find alternate paths.
The current trend in the Web2.0 world is to put this guise in question. Educators are encouraged to step off the stage and become the guide on the side. Teachers are being asked to incorporate multiple intelligences in their lesson plans and differentiate for all learners. They are asked to put on a different role in classrooms, one of facilitating, not lecturing.
Getting educators off that stage has been more difficult than anticipated for me. I was more than happy to run leaping off that fake stage. But others seem entrenched in tradition. Comfort is found in the familiar "I'm right because I am the teacher" attitude so prevalent in our society. When learners enter my classroom there is quite an adjustment for them, as I insist loudly that I am not responsible for their learning. We are all learners and each of us is responsible for becoming lifelong learners and doing our work as unto our Lord (NIV, Col. 3:23).
Learners need also to widen their horizons. They seem to have become as a generation disillusioned with K-12 schools and propel themselves through for the diploma only. I'm puzzled by this attitude, as I know other educators with whom I work are. The real issue is how to effect change. I am not 'the teacher' with any answers in my classroom. I challenge all educators to step off that stage at least once in a while. It is a liberating educational tool through which we can recognise the high ability of all learners and offer them a quality education.
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