Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Two For Tuesday 1-29-2008

1. Understanding the Difference between Blogs, Wikis and Discussion Forums: Thanks to Alec Couros for sharing (via Twitter) this great graphic which does a great job of illustrating the differences between these Online Tools. Thanks also to Chris L for creating and sharing this graphic on Flickr.

2. My Common Principles for 21st Century Schools: In my last blog post I outlined my ideas for some Common Principles for 21st Century Schools, which were inspired by my attendance at the amazing Educon 2.0 conference last weekend. I'm still hoping for feedback on this blog post and would also love people to join the wiki and contribute your ideas.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Common Principles for 21st Century Schools

My Twitter network came alive this weekend at the Educon 2.0 Conference in Philadelphia, PA. I met so many people that I have known virtually for a long time. We had amazing conversations about learning and technology (in that order). What was most powerful for me was the common vision that many of us share about what good teaching and learning looks like in the 21st century. Thank you so much to Chris Lehmann and everyone else who made this all possible.

In the spirit of Ted Sizer's Common Principles for the Coalition of Essential Schools (Thanks to Thom Hoffman for his session on the topic), I list below my thoughts on the Common Principals for 21st Century Schooling. I do not believe these principles should take the place of Sizer's vision. I use his model for inspiration and as the backbone for what I have begun to flesh out below and on a wiki.

I've created an Educon 2.0 group on the Classroom 2.0 Ning Website for attendees (both virtual and face to face) to continue the conversation.

The Common Principles for 21st Century Schools
This is a work in progress. Please join the wiki and help me to revise and refine these ideas.

Community is Essential - The school should bring learners and teachers together into a supportive community that nurtures both the individual and the group. The community should permeate all possible spaces, in the classroom, in the home and Online.

Critical Thinking - The school should actively encourage learners and teachers to think critically, continually asking the question, "Why do we teach what we teach?"

Risk Taking - The school should actively encourage learners and teachers to risk failure in the pursuit of understanding.

Learner Centered - The school should surround the learner with ideas and information, encouraging the learner to pursue a wide variety of paths to knowledge, and supporting the personal growth for all who inhabit the community.

Diversity - The school should actively encourage and pursue the input of those both inside and outside the community with a diversity of opinions. The school should consistently check that it is inclusive and supportive of learners and teachers from diverse backgrounds.

Nurture all learners - The school should provide opportunities and encouragement for all members of the community including teachers, students and parents to learn and grow.

Pursue Innovation - The school should actively explore, pursue and test new ideas and technologies, while always keeping the learner at the heart of the pursuit.

Good schools graduate good people - The school should actively and explicitly teach learners to think beyond themselves, encouraging students to value kindness and generosity.

Break down the walls - The school should provide access and opportunities for learners and teachers to reach outside the walls of the school to the neighboring, national and global community.

Image Citation: "Fitting In" assortedstuff's Photostream on Flickr. 26 Jan 2008. [http://www.flickr.com/photos/assortedstuff/2220751752/] 28 Jan 2008 .

Monday, January 21, 2008

Getting Started With Twitter - Screencast

I know I've written about Twitter before (as have many other people), but Vicki Davis's recent blog posts inspired me to create a Screencast to help people get started using Twitter.

In this video I go over how to sign up, how to set up your account, how to find followers and how to download applications that will help make Twitter more useful to you. Throughout this Screencast, you will see my Twitter network at work. I hope this can help illustrate, especially for those of you who are visual learners, the power of Twitter.

The video was too long (20 minutes) for YouTube, so I am experimenting with blip.tv (Thanks to @kjarrett in my Twitter network). If you want to be able to stop, start, fast forward and download this video, you will want to click here to watch it. Also, my husband is renovating our basement right now, so the odd noises you hear in the background are not Darth Vader, but his pneumatic nail gun. I apologize in advance for that.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Bucket List Meme

Ok This is the first time I've been tagged for a meme (that I know of). I must be coming up in the world. Thanks to Susan at Beyond Podcasting for thinking of me.

The Bucket List meme was started by
Jeff Pulver and is based on the movie. It seems to have not evolved much and is still essentially a list of things you hope to accomplish in 2008.

What do I hope to accomplish in 2008?
1. I would like to get to know the faculty and staff at my school and I would like them to get to know me.
2. I hope to successfully play Charlotte Lucas in a local community theater production of Pride and Prejudice.
3. I hope to make a great decision about who I will vote for in the upcoming presidential primary.
4. I hope to continue to fit exercise into my very busy life.
5. I strive to be a good mother, wife and daughter.
6. I hope to inspire teachers and students to start blogging.
7. I hope to encourage people to join and participate in the social networks (ning) that I have created.
8. I strive to continue to contribute to this blog in a thoughtful and meaningful way.

OK now I have to tag some others.
I tag Cathy Jo, Anne, and Carolyn.
Your turn.

Saturday, January 19, 2008


I've been piloting different ways to present Internet Safety/Cyberbullying lessons to groups of 9th graders. I'm working with a few of our counselors who teach a weekly guidance seminar. We've tried a few different resources - a PowerPoint from NetSmartz.org, a video from Digizens.org. It has been very hard to get kids to participate. Last week was painful - we were faced with dead silence for most of the hour.

This week I tried something different, with a mixed result. I used Chatzy to set up a private chat room. We had all of the kids sign in to the room anonymously. They participated in the conversation only through the chat room. I spoke questions aloud and presented a video and a handout. My colleague (school counselor) monitored the back channel.

The results were interesting. There were several kids who just would not take the chat seriously. They joked around throughout the chat and ultimately ended up doing some cyberbullying themselves. My colleague called them on it. It will make for an interesting debrief when they next meet.

I'm still formulating a plan for next time. I think we will do the chat again, but this time with real names. Take a look at some of the highlights below. I would love to hear your observations and suggestions. Let me know what you think.

Here are some of the highlights from the chat.

Me: What is bullying?
mo247: being mean to make themselves feel more powerful

Me: What is cyberbullying
whs12: cyberbullying is when someone is online and is saying mean things to you
12345: cyberbulying is when you say things that make others uncomfortable, IM, myspace, facebook, etc.

Me: What makes cyberbullying different from bullying?
student1: it is usually anonymous
THESTUDENT: you dont really know who or what the other person is like
Lionheart: Or it can be someone who is pretending to be someone else

Me: What would you do if you were cyberbullied?
whs12: you could talk to the person being bullied and see if they're ok or just be a man and tell the people to stop
12345: i would tell my friends and see if they had any advice
mo247: i could stand up to the bully if i had people to back me up

I showed a video and we "discussed" it. There isn't much from the transcript that is worth sharing.

At the end of the presentation I asked: Was this conversation helpful?
12345: in person is prob better, less goofy
Lionheart: ya, it is helpful!
unit 6: yes, because you can work it out
creepy tuck: ya ppl dont take it seriously b/c regardless there are gunn be ppl that do it
Lionheart: Why less goofy?
fontie: ok
student 4: we aleady went over it like 10 times in middle school

Finally I asked: Was the chatroom helpful?
THESTUDENT: this is a lot more fun/interactive
creepy tuck: more peaople talked then usually in the other room in person
student 4: it was kinda fun
12345: i didnt find the chatroom helpful
fontie: yea i think it was usefull
student 4: people were probably more open in here
creepy tuck: sritcker*
whs12: probably cause not so many people were holding back. if it was in person people mght second guess themselves and not wanna say their thoughts outloud
jeff23: si
McLovin: i thought it was pretty helpful
THESTUDENT: this is like 3 times as much dialouge then if we just talked regularly
mo247: true
unit 6: what I found useful was you got to understand more about bulying in a whole different angle

Image Citation: "Safety" Skip the Budgie's Photostream on Flickr. 10 May 2006. [http://www.flickr.com/photos/skip/143977272/] 19 Jan 2008 .

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Two For Tuesday: 1-15-08

1. Backing Up Your Files: Yes, you know you should do it, but you just haven't had a minute. I'm as guilty as anyone. If my computer were to die today, I would be in trouble (I'm going to back up as soon as I finish writing this!). To help preserve my documents, I've been creating and opening files in Google Docs. This allows me to access my files anywhere because they are saved on the Google server. Using del.icio.us to tag my bookmarks also preserves my important links Online.

Finally, there are several free utilities you can use to help you to automate your backup process. Here is a great blog post that summarizes and explains the free backup software that is available on the Web.

2. MIT OpenCourseWare - Highlights For High School: MIT has made A.P. Bio, Physics and Calculus lecture notes, materials, labs and videos of lectures available for free Online. This site has materials that teachers can use to supplement their lessons. Students can use this Website to get extra help, find resources and/or to help them decide if they want to pursue a subject. Finally, if you always wanted to learn calculus, this is the Website for you.

Image Citation: Sindy. "Friendly Reminder to Backup your Files" Sindy's Photostream on Flickr. 9 Sept. 2005. [http://www.flickr.com/photos/sindy/41865369/] 15 Jan 2008 .

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Doing the Ning Thing

I joined my first Ning group almost a year ago and have been hooked ever since. It all started with classroom2.0 on Ning. This was my first social network and I wasn't sure how to play at first. I was just looking back at my first blog entry on Ning. I think I expressed my confusion and excitement pretty well. Over time I got the hang of it. I often find that I first have to discover the power of a Web 2.0 tool for myself before I can see its applications in the classroom.

Visit Classroom 2.0

Let me back up - what is Ning? Ning is an online application that allows you to create your own social network around any topic that you are interested in. The Classroom 2.0 group on Ning is a network of people interested in the integration of Web 2.0 Online tools in the classroom. There are networks about everything - baseball, Broadway, dancing, books and of course education.

Ning is a social network like Facebook, but in Ning the group comes first and your profile exists within the group. On Facebook, your profile comes first and you can join as many groups as you are interested in using the same profile. The downside of Ning is that you need to create a new profile page for each space you join. This can also be an upside, you can customize your profile to fit the group. You might not want the classroom 2.0 folks to see the profile you have on the BroadwaySpace Ning site for people who love theater.

I've been trying to think of a metaphor to compare Ning to Facebook. On Facebook the individual comes first, on Ning the group comes first. Capitalism vs. Communism... Republican vs. Democrat... But I digress...

I have set up Ning sites for several English classes at my high school. Students are reflecting on books and writing assignments through their Ning blog posts. I also created a Ning site for my TV/Video class so that we can upload and share our videos. All of these classroom sites are private right now, they are only visible to accepted members. I'm hoping to open them up soon, but privacy helps make people more comfortable. It is a good place to start. Ning has generously agreed to take the ads off of Websites used for 7-12 education. See this post from Steve Hargadon to learn more.

I created a Ning site for the faculty and staff at my high school. Several teachers joined at first, but it hasn't taken off. I think in order for a Ning site like this to work for teachers, there has to be a reason for us to go there, or else it just becomes something else to do. It might work if the agenda for a faculty meeting was posted on the site and teachers were asked to respond in a discussion forum. The more the site is used the more it will be used - if that makes any sense.

Most recently, I created a Ning site for my college graduating class. I'm hoping that we can use this site as a way to reconnect with each other, post pictures and share updates about our lives. We'll see how it goes.

Are you using a Ning site for your classroom? Do you belong to any Ning sites? What do you think of Ning? I would love to hear your thoughts.

P.S. Thank you to Patrick Woessner for inspiring this post.
P.S.S. Check out this wiki for lots of links to social networks used in educational environments.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Two for Tuesday 2-8-08

1. Forming a Technology Study Group: This week at Wellesley High School I am proposing the formation of a technology study group. I want to build a professional community of learners (PLC) interested in exploring the integration of different technologies in the classroom. This group will meet during the school day and the hours attended can be used towards recertification! The content of the group and meeting times will be shaped by the people who are interested in joining. A professional learning community can be defined as a group of
educators committed to working collaboratively in ongoing processes of collective inquiry and action research in order to achieve better results for the students they serve. PLC’s operate under the assumption that the key to improved learning for students is continuous, job-embedded learning for educators. (DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, Many. 2006. Learning By Doing: A Handbook for Professional Learning Communities at Work. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree)
As far as I know, my school is not currently practicing this form of professional development. I have been trained as a Critical Friends Group coach (CFG), but not specifically as a PLC facilitator. I am hoping to apply my CFG training to this experience and figure the rest out as we go (if I get any takers).

If you are currently participating in a PLC and have any suggestions, I welcome them here. I'm also looking for a text to guide our group. If you know of a book that might work for us, please let me know.

If this comes together, I'm sure you will be hearing about in future blog entries.

2. Top 10 Obscure Google Search Tricks: Want to know how to track a package, find out what time it is in Hong Kong, and track the status of a flight right from the Google search page? Check out this blog post (read the comments for even more Google search tips).

Image Citation: Stearns, Janice. "Edubloggercon on Flickr." Flickr. 23 June 2007. 8 Jan 2008 .

Friday, January 4, 2008

Diving in - Learning in the Deep End

Recently, I had the opportunity to reflect about my teaching practice with one of the assistant superintendents of our school district. We had a wonderful conversation that lasted over an hour. We talked a lot about a recent blog post of mine: Teaching Teachers to Fish (or Cut Bait). She helped me to visualize what constructivist professional development could look like. Together we fleshed out a structure to provide teachers with an investigative model for learning to use technology.

Here are the basics of what we came up with:
1. Have a discussion about constructivist learning/teaching :
  • What is it?
  • How do you use it (or not)?
  • What are the benefits for kids?
  • What are the challenges?
2. Discuss how this applies to the learning of new technologies.
3. Send them out to explore an application in a constructivist way - be explicit about this and provide some guiding questions and some goals.
4. Examples of guiding questions:
  • What were goals of the people who designed this program?
  • Why did they structure it the way they did.
  • What were they (the programmers) thinking?
  • Did they succeed?
5. Example of some goals - podcasting example:
  • Can you record your voice?
  • Add music?
  • Add sound effects?
  • What else can you do?
6. Come back together and share answers and discoveries.
7. Explicitly discuss the learning process :
  • How did it feel?
  • Was it frustrating?
  • Did they have any breakthroughs?
  • Did they make connections to the ways students learn.
8. Send teachers back out to continue to explore - give an option of more guided teaching materials, encourage them to continue problem solving.
9. Conclude with a "Now What" discussion of how they can apply their experience to their future learning and to their teaching.

Have you tried anything like this with teachers? Did it work for you? Have you experienced this kind of professional development (perhaps in another context)? Do you have any suggestions or advice? I'm going to try this out in the spring. I welcome your thoughts and ideas!

Image Citation: hidden side's, "tuffo." Flickr. 08 Feb 2006. 4 Jan 2008 .