Yesterday’s Picture

 75 221866323 E6Fd87Abe3 OYesterday’s blog was posted through my mobile phone, because I did not have access to the Internet from the airport, and the computers that were available would not allow me to access my thumb drive. The only way that I knew to post the article was through flickr, which meant that I had to also post a picture.
The picture was of a coyote that we saw near the airport. My wife took it with my mobile phone, while we were moving — so it isn’t very good. But it is the first coyote I’ve seen in the wild.

It isn’t a surprise to see it near the airport. We regularly see herds of deer near the Raleigh/Durham airport when Brenda picks me up late at night.

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Isn’t this What We Want?

Yesterday, I wrote about how my son seems to take his conversations with him, almost constantly lifting his mobile phone from his pocket, reading, typing, and then slipping it back in. Although, he’s started college, more than 1,200 miles from home, his conversations continue. His Friendships continue through daily interactions, in much the same way that they did when he was at home.

Cherrie, a regular reader of my blog commented on yesterday’s entry. She is a Hong Kong born student living in New Zealand — with dual citizenship. She said,

I find that keeping in touch with my friends/teachers from the past helpful in remembering who I am – this helps me to keep focussed, grounded and helps me with making decisions (by affirming my values). Having such a large ‘repertoire’ of contacts and friends gives me a great deal of support and safety in a life that changes very very quickly with a schedule that bulges from the seams.

Isn’t this what we should be encouraging our students to do, not being afraid of it and banning it.

Shift happens

Shift Happens

Brenda and I are sitting in the airport. We’ve just left our son at college and we’re heading in our temporarily separate directions, she back home to Raleigh, and me to Canada for an administrators conference. I was struck by all of the changes that have occurred, with regard to one’s first few days of college for my son, and my first days, back more than 30 years ago.

One of the defining experiences of starting your college career in the 1970s was all the lines. Standing in line for your dorm room. Standing in line for courses (with computer punch cards and warnings of dire consequences if one card gets bent). Standing in line for lunch cards and standing in line for textbooks. To be fair to my time in school, I must admit that I made some of my lasting college friendships standing in line waiting for class registrations.

It was a process of dealing with information by herding people around like cattle. Today, the information practically takes care of itself. Martin signed up for his courses online. Ordered his textbooks online. Got his dorm room and was introduced to his roommates online. His id card was mailed to him, and this gives him complete access to all other services of the school.

As for friends? We had breakfast yesterday morning in IHOP, just next to the campus. As we were sitting down, a young woman came over and said, “Are you a music major?”

Martin looked up and said, “Yes!”

She continued, “You’re Martin, aren’t you.”

He smiled and said, “You’re (don’t remember the name)!”

She was the other euphonium player who made one of the two slots for that instrument available in the school of music this year. After she left, I asked Martin if they’d met before. He said no, that she’d evidently found him through his Facebook page, and he’d seen her profile as well. They’ve met now, and will likely become friends because of their common instruments.

What impressed me the most about change, is what hasn’t changed for my son. When I left for college, I pretty much left my old high school friends behind. I left town, only to return for short weekends, and those relations faded. My son, however, was constantly pulling his phone from his pocket, reading, typing, and slipping it back in. His friends are going to the University of Michigan, University of Illinois, East Carolina University, NC State, and many others. They’ve split, are traveling hundreds and thousands of miles away from each other, and yet their conversations continue. I believe that one of the central conditions of these millennial kids is that their conversations follow them, no matter where or when they are.

Shift happens

Originally uploaded by David Warlick.

Examples, you say?

Sarasota, Florida teacher, Mr. Chase, posted a long and very interesting post (So Much) in his Mr. Chase’s Blog yesterday about the first few days of school with students who seem to have ubiquitous access to computers. It was a joy to read of such enthusiasm during the first days of a new school year and a generation of children moving one more year toward their future. It’s a great read.
At the end, he says…

One of my frustrations when listening to the podcasts and presentations of folks like David Warlick and Will Richardson is that I want examples, I want lessons and projects, I want to see what’s going on with the people who have been there.

Coincidentally, I spent a little time, while laid over in the Minneapolis airport yesterday, creating a new blog. I just can’t believe I’m doing this to myself. It’s called Best Practices in Blogging. A little grandiose for nothing more than some suggestions for making use of weblogs in the classroom. I’m planning, at this point, to try to post a suggestion a day, each day concentrating on one subject area.

Logo-1I don’t know how long I’ll be able to keep that up, but I agree with Mr. Chase. I recognize that these high minded ideas are just entertainment unless they result in some impact on the classroom the next day. So yesterday’s blog is about health, since I got dinged by member of my audience in South Dakota the other day. She pointed out that I mentioned, in my presentation, all subject areas except for Health & PE. Ding!
I’m also tagging the entries so that they should show up in the Support Education wiki page on Best Practices. If you write a blog entry about instructional applications for weblogs, tag it with “bloggingbestpractice”.

By the way, I’m using eLGG for this blog, just to try to acquaint myself more with this environment.

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The eLGG Experience

I’ve been paying a lot of attention to the buzz around eLGG, and the more that I think about social networking, our students, and retooling classrooms for the future, the more these two elements (eLGG and our challenges) seem to be coalescing in my mind. Yet I still have questions.

I’m playing around with eLGG now, but have to admit that I am underwhelmed. It’s a basic blogging system, with the ability to create communities, upload files, attach files to your blogs, and a sundry of other features, and that the basis of the product is electronic portfolios. But I’m afraid that I don’t entirely get it — at least to the degree that the buzz implies. The thing is that I’m not really sure if I’m missing something in eLGG, or I’m too old to understand the whole online social community experience.

If you can help me to better understand what eLGG is about, please post a comment. I’d love to have a single blog that I can point people to in order to read a conversation about this potentially important learning service. Please give examples…

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Is this Staff Development?

Karl Fisch, a staff developer for Arapahoe High School in Colorado, posted an interesting blog on Tuesday, where he described being asked to deliver a presentation at the beginning of school this year on the latest in technology. He decided, after considering all of the other things that teachers had going on, to simply build a self-running slide presentation that spotlights some “New Story” factoids — some “did you know that” story starters. He did a fabulous job.

You can read his blog entry (Did you Know?) here, which includes a link to his presentation slide. I hope that this isn’t the last we’ll be hearing about this presentation.

Oh Yeah! Is this staff development? “You Bet-chya!”

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Some Ideas about 1:1

After my opening school keynote at the Mitchell School District, in South Dakota yesterday, I met for a couple of hours with the technical staff of the district and their integrationist (that’s a new one). First, I was extremely impressed with the tech staff. The main thing that impacted me was that they seemed to consider that they core of their job is to support the technology of a teaching and learning institution. I hear of too many tech people who focus exclusively on the technology, and not its context. Not the case here.

One thing that was unique about this team is that Mitchell is a K-14 district. The local technical college is part of the school district and its chief administrator is the school superintendent. I’ve never seen that before, and it opens up lots of possibilities in my mind.

The integrationist is new to the job and a former English teacher. She has certainly done her homework, and has a great deal of the vision-making underway, with the help of their superintendent, Joe Graves, the technology director, and her own experience as a practiced innovator.

I felt un-needed by this group, who had already engaged in more conversations about 1:1 than I have. But I did make a few suggestions within the conversation that I thought I’d jot down here.

  • Look at the laptop program as a multidimensional conversation room. The tendency is to try to use ubiquitous computing to improve the delivery of instruction. I think that just as much (if not more) benefit can come from using it to generate conversation within the context of instruction. Go beyond communication between teacher and student, and engage students in learner to learner conversations. This could be as simple as blogs, or more sophisticated social networks such as eLGG.
  • Do the same thing for teachers. Some teachers are going to take off with ubiquitous computing. You need their experiences to become a part of the school’s conversations. This could be a portal, blogs, in-school-mailgroups, etc.
  • Look into staff development services such as Atomic Learning. There are others, but that’s the only one I can think of. Give teachers an opportunity to self-develop at their convenience, the technical side of technology.
  • Get teachers accustomed to asking the students. “I want us to produce some video in our class this semester. I don’t know how. Do any of you have any experience with producing videos, and if so, would you be willing to prepare a presentation for the class and serve as our video consultant?”
  • Set up a team of educators who meet regularly (at least every month — preferably every two-weeks) to discuss problems, successes, management tips, and other issues that arrise in the 1:1 implementation. Include tech-savvy teachers, less savvy teachers, administrators, tech staff, and at least two or three students. Take notes and publish them — or record the meetings and podcast them.

Just a few ideas…

Just 2¢ Worth!

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Hotel Treasures

a chairman

What a treasure it is to find,
A glorious throne to the weary road warrior,
An alter to comfort,
Invitation to rest and relaxation,
A trap for the mind, body and soul.
It’s home when it looks like this.

You have no idea,
What a sad tragedy hotel room furniture is,
And when I walk into a room,
In the middle of the great prairie,
And see this?

Oh my heart melts.
My spirit flies.
My aging bones sigh with nirvana.

An Adventure and a Rich Find — a Brick Wall

I’m sitting, in South Dakota, somewhere near Sioux Falls — apparently miles from the city, because this hotel seems to be the only think in sight that stands more than ten feet tall. This is the prairie — the “Gateway to the Prairie.”

 97 216742494 C76B8F7530 MI decided to take a walk after dinner (fortunately Papa John’s delivers), and out in the hotel parking lot was a chuck wagon and frountier tent. Dressed in period (1890s) clothing was the Swanson Family. An extremely knowledgeable about prairie life, wife, cowboy song singing, steer roping (well it was the plastic head of a steer), fancy shooting (gun stayed in the hoster) husband, a fiddle playing son, whip cracking younger son, with a cut as she can be, rock-throwing twin sister. They’re making a business of going around, mostly to elementary schools, to teach students about the fronteir ways. I have such adventures, on those rare ocassions, that I happen to venture out of my hotel room.

I had another adventure this morning when I discovered a new blog, Dangerously Irrelevant. The about message is a quote from Gwynne Dyer.

Our intelligence tends to produce technological and social change at a rate faster than our institutions and emotions can cope with. . . . Innovation is cumulative and the rate of change accelerates. We therefore find ourselves continually trying to accommodate new realities within inappropriate existing institutions, and trying to think about those new realities in traditional but sometimes dangerously irrelevant terms.

The author of the blog wrote, quite eloquently:

we have a few visionary principals and superintendents. Yes, we have some creative tech coordinator / CTO types that also understand the leadership aspects of their position. And yet, at ed tech conferences and in the literature, we hear about the same dozen or so school organizations time after time. Why? Because they are the ones that have leaders that “get it.” Most of the rest of our schools have innovative, technology-using educators whose potential impact runs smack into the brick wall of their administrators’ lack of knowledge and/or training.

Scott McCleod, contrary to his name, is not from Scotland. He is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Policy Administration at the University of Minnesota, and Director of the Center for the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education (CASTLE).

I really like McLeod’s visual of the brick wall that is resistant administrators who ignore the world outside of their school. But there are lots of brick walls, without apparent doors. The principal’s office is only one of them. Our class rooms are bricked up, and the bricks and mortar continue to be laid, thickening those walls (DOPA).

I realized, while talking with the administrators and tech staff at Lausanne Collegiate School the other night, what a ubiquitous and constraining brick wall the whole testing mentality and philosophy is. Here is a 1:1 school. Lower grades have computers in the classroom, the upper elementary have carts. Middle and High School students have laptops that they carry with them from class to class, and home. One of the tech folks described how, in the classroom, the students typical use their machines for note taking, preparing for a test. However, when they get outside the classroom, they are huddled around their laptops, talking, typing, mousing, working information, engaged, he believes, in the far deeper intellectual activities that the laptops are about — for which they were intended.

I do not blame the teachers because it’s the tests. It isn’t end of year or end of course state mandated NCLB tests. Lausianne is a private school, and they are not held to government regulation. They do not suffer from that great extortion. Yet, as a preparatory school, they are measured, mostly by AP scores. So high school teachers are still teaching to the tests. It’s a GREAT brick wall, preventing our schools from retooling.

The stakes are high. The stakes are our future. And for the first time in history, we can not describe our future. So rather than our government clamping more and more regulations on schools, we should be pouring, pouring, pouring resources into our classrooms, and freeing our professional teachers with the resources and time to reinvent their teaching and retool their classrooms into learning environment that prepare children with the learning literacies they will need for an unpredictable future.

I know that these are high flying words that don’t solve the problems. “I know they don’t solve the problems.” But I believe that we live in a time, today, where we could engage in a broad, global, professional conversation where we could solve most of those problems. We just have to remove the yoke of petty politics from our teachers and administrators’ necks, and go at it.

Dang! I should have been preparing for my work today. No problems! It’s early!

2¢ Worth!

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Another Missed Opportunity

 80 215031845 93Aeb93Ad6 MThere are so many podcast worthy moments that just pass me by. I actually had my iPod and iTalk with me, but the ambient noise of the restaurant would simply have made the conversation to difficult to follow.

I’m talking about having dinner, last night, with the head master and technology team of Lausanne Collegiate School, where I taught staff development during the day. (See A Good Day in Memphis)

Bottom line? 1:1 does not provide all the answers. In fact, it provokes lots of new questions, which is the approach of the school’s chief administrator, Stuart McCathie. He believes in, promotes quite eloquently, and offers lots of examples for, facilitating more powerful learning by asking a different kind of question. What occurred to me, as he was talking, was that most of our questions ask for answers. McCathie is suggesting questions that ask for conversations. Engaged in conversation, students become responsible to a community for what they find and learn. Answering a question is merely between the student and the teacher.

I am ever more impressed by the almost overwhelming challenges of working in a 1:1 teaching/learning environment. It requires so many shifts, most of them subtle, but no less difficult for a teacher — even young teachers. Even a first year teacher has 12+ years of experience in traditional classrooms. The challenges are enormous — but we simply have no choice!

I left even more convinced that contemporary literacy can be a potent angle to make these shifts from, that it isn’t about the new tools on students desks, but the new access to information and the new abilities to produce information. The answer, I believe, can be as simple as The Beacon School’s approach of simply saying, “At this point, no student work will be turned in on paper. Everything will be done digitally.” It’s a focus on the nature of the information, not the shape of the pencil.

Finally, the school conducted a survey of their students last year, asking a committee of students to help with the process. The first thing that the committee did was to replace the questions that had been posed by the school with their own questions. I only had time to get tidbits about the survey, but the students wanted to do more gaming and social networking and IM’ing in their classrooms. No surprise there. But that’s where they are! It’s where they’ll be! I think that we need to look seriously for ways to reflect, in our classrooms, this information landscape that is so much a part of our children’s experience.

2¢ Worth