A Classic Senior Project

Joe Poletti, at Haulin’ ‘Net describes some of the senior projects that were presented recently in Carteret County.

Haulin’ ‘Net 2006-2007 » Blog Archive » Classic!:

It’s a classic equation: High quality pedagogy yields high quality results. This week, senior English students of WCHS teacher Ms. Nancy Reynolds have been presenting their Senior Projects to peers and panels of judges…

…The car is a classic. So is the Senior Project, done properly. The Senior Project is less about teacher and school direction and more about student opportunity. Students have the opportunity to stretch their limits while focusing on a topic about which they have some passion and/or career aspiration. Other project examples I watched over the last few days include the following:

  • A young lady who organized a clothes drive for Katrina victims
  • A young man who built a computer to donate to his church
  • A young man who designed a blueprint and compiled a materials list for an endzone film tower on the football field
  • A young lady who volunteered for Hospice
  • A young man who developed fitness and dietary programs for four wrestlers

Poletti concludes:

Suffice it to say, the Senior Project—done properly—looks like a convergence field for Future Ready NC. It is a perfect vehicle for horizontal and vertical curriculum articulation. It should be included among the promising programs in the draft of the Joint Commission Report on Information Technology that has been circulating in North Carolina.

Old School — WPCS –moving futureward–>

I took this picture outside with my phone, looking up the front tower of this beautiful school building.
I was lucky enough to visit the library at the end of the day.  One of the most inviting school media centers I’ve seen.  They also had a bronze statue of William Penn in the foyer.

The day after I spent an afternoon at the Science Leadership Academy, I worked at the William Penn Charter School, started by William Penn himself in 1689.  As an old history teacher, you can imagine the thrill.  To top everything off, I got to see a 15 minute snow blizzard — maybe the only I’ll see this season, though New Brunswick, Canada does hold promise.

It was a full day, including a round table discussion with about 20 teachers, a meeting with the technology staff at WPCS, and an end-of-the-day address to the faculty and invited guests on millennials, flat world, flat schools, video games, and 21st century skills (literacy). 

The highpoint was probably two forums that I facilitated with students.  I’ve done this before, and the goal is to learn something from students about their perceptions of what and how they are learning, and what they see as the skills they will need in their future.  In the past I’ve had much more time with the students.  Here, I was with a representative groups of middle school students for a half hour and the same amount of time with the upper school students.  Yet, even in such a short period of time, I continue to be amazed at how articulate, insightful, and resourceful students can be — when given the opportunity and the responsibility.

Michael Moulton, the director of technology there, recorded these conversations to make them available to the faculty of the schools.  The session started with a presentation of ideas about the future: globalization, growth of information, technological advancements, projections about when we’ll have electronic paper or computers that are smarter than we are.  Then I asked the students to come up with one word (maybe three) that they think best describes their future.  Here are a few of the responses that I got:

  • opportunity
  • innovation
  • international
  • rapidly changing
  • growth of knowledge
  • life-long learning

I guess what surprised and impressed me the most was how well this 1920s building had been retrofitted with information infrastructure.  The campus is wireless, all classrooms have presentation computers, projectors, and wall-mounted interactive white boards.  The teachers I worked with directly showed a great deal of inventiveness in some of the activities with their students, especially English and foreign language classes. 

They also exhibited a healthy amount of skepticism, as did I.  One teacher came up and explained that he was teaching his students Flash.  My skeptical question was, “Why?” 

“Well” he said, “If my students are going to be challenged to communicate with a global audience, images and animation will be one effective way to do that.” 

Good answer!

Technorati Tags:

Prompt Writing?

I’ve been enjoying some e-mail correspondence with Nancy Bosch, at the Neiman Enhanced Learning Center in  Shawnee, Kansas.  Her grades 4-6 students have been blogging for some time.  She has recently introduced them to wikis.  Here are a few comments from her students that she gave me permission to post.

“Boy, I’m glad we didn’t have to write!” (hello….you just spent the whole day writing!!)
“It is so cool to know that somebody might use what I wrote for their research!!”
“I write a lot more carefully knowing the ‘world’ can read it”
“I liked the fact that we could work together, help each other out and link to stuff someone else wrote”

“It is so cool to put something ON the Internet, rather than always taking stuff OFF.”

Nancy mentioned something today I thought I would toss out there for your consideration and sharing.  She says that one thing that’s surprised her is how little she has to prompt her students to write.  She’d thought that she would have to constantly give her students blogging assignments, but they have taken to it as a matter of practice, and are blogging on all sorts of topics.  This is consistant with comments that I’ve gotten from teachers who are using my blogging tool.

So what do you think?  Is it just that they are academically gifted students, or do students actually enjoy blogging, enough to do it for their own intrinsic reasons?

Technorati Tags:

Smart Places

I just ran across this.  I’m not sure if it is a blog, or a web site, using blog technology.  But there is some interesting information here in terms of places in the U.S. with lots of smart people.

United States:

According to the 2000 Census Decennial, the Counties (or Parishes) in the United States range, in terms of percent of population (over 25) with a Bachelors Degree or Higher, from a high of 63.8 percent in Falls Church city, Virginia to a low of 4.8 percent in Aleutians East Borough, Alaska.

The ten most highly-educated counties or parrishes in the U.S. are:

1. Falls Church city, Virginia (63.8 percent)
2. Los Alamos County, New Mexico (60.4 percent)
3. Arlington County, Virginia (60.2 percent)
4. Pitkin County, Colorado (57.2 percent)
5. Fairfax County, Virginia (54.8 percent)
6. Montgomery County, Maryland (54.6 percent)
7. Alexandria city, Virginia (54.4 percent)
8. Howard County, Maryland (53 percent)
9. Boulder County, Colorado (52.4 percent)
10. Douglas County, Colorado (51.8 percent)

You can also click individual states to see a list of the ten most highly-educated counties or parrishes.  North Carolina reveals the following. 

1. Orange County (51.4 percent)
2. Wake County (43.8 percent)
3. Durham County (40.2 percent)
4. Mecklenburg County (37.2 percent)
5. Watauga County (33.2 percent)
6. New Hanover County (31 percent)
7. Guilford County (30.2 percent)
8. Forsyth County (28.6 percent)
9. Dare County (27.6 percent)
10. Chatham County (27.6 percent)

It might be interesting to ask students why they would want to live in these places.  What draws people to these places, or what is it about these places that produces highly-educated people.

A while back, I saw an address presented by Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class and the Flight of the Creative Class.  He said that the aspects that draw creative people to certain places is aesthetics and open communities.

What do you think?

Technorati Tags:

Digital Camera 19

Photo Uploaded by David Warlick

Brenda and I were shopping in the Discovery store at the mall today, and I ran across this camera — digital still, video, and webcam in one — for only $19.00, including the CD and USB Cable. I have no idea about the quality, but it strikes me that digital photography has risen to the status of toy

New School — SLA

Science Leadership Academy, Philadelphia

Yesterday, I visited a school that is brand new in almost any way that you can imagine, and in many ways you probably couldn’t.  Led by Chris Lehmann, the Science Leadership Academy is a new school (approximately five months) in inner-city Philadelphia.  It is also one of the only schools that is explicitly labeling itself and putting into practice School 2.0 — a conversation I would like to have had more of yesterday.  Evidence of this conversation was everywhere  and by every stakeholder (the parents have their own room).

It is a 1:1 school.  All the students carried bookbags, but in most cases they were empty except for a Macintosh iBook (or were they MacBooks — I’ve lost track).  In the classroom, these computers are open more than they are closed.  Teachers are directing students in work, not in listening.  The computers are not talked about very much, perhaps only a little more than pencils are talked about in traditional classrooms, and this is a good thing.  I suspect that five months from now, they’ll be talked about even less. 

Contents of an SLA Bookbag
A laptop with water colors.  Eggads!
A sign of things to come!

..and this is what I look forward to now — revisiting this school in five more months.  What I saw yesterday was a school that is looking for pavement, and it’s exciting. You see, this is a school that has opened up.  It’s opened up its curriculum, its resources, its pedagogy, its schedule, and even more importantly, its avenues for communication, using the latest in Web 2.0 applications (Moodle, elgg, del.icio.us, blogging, podcasting, and others that I heard mention of yesterday).  Their challenge is that these 14 and 15 year old students are finding themselves floating in this open environment along with teachers who are mostly coming from traditional schools.  But I saw students and teachers desperately and skillfully trying to find and define the new boundaries that these new avenues avail and to use those boundaries for traction. 

The word that I most often think of to describe school 2.0 is conversations.  In old school,  conversation usually goes in one direction.  From teacher to student, from textbook to student, from worksheet to student, and the student responds through tests and essays.  In School 2.0 the conversations are alive and they flow in almost any direction.  I heard reference more than once yesterday to a new conversation between the school and the community, and students are becoming responsible for much of that conversation. 

But this is an enormous challenge, and the word that I couldn’t think of yesterday that I think best describes their challenge is channel.  They are trying to re-channel learning through a learning environment that is no longer a shoebox, but a vibrant network of conversations that are spoken, written, and drawn, tagged, posted, read, built-on, responded to, and re-tagged and posted again.  Those of you who are practiced in Web 2.0 applications know what all of this implies —  learning through conversation and crafting classrooms that can channel that conversation in potent ways.

Today, I visit one of the oldest schools in North American, a school that first opened its doors to learners in the 17th century.  I’m sure I’ll have more to say tomorrow — when I’ll be back home for a few days.

Back on the Road

It’s been more than a month of no traveling (except for those wonderful days in Beaufort with my family).  Leaving home for hotel life again is going to be really hard this morning.

My last gig was the North Carolina Educational Technology Conference.  In a few hours, I’ll fly up to Philadelphia, where tomorrow, I will work with teachers and students at an independent school.  Today, I’m excited about spending some time with Chris Lehmann and Marcie Hull, at the Science Leadership Academy.  I was involved in a very small way in some of the preliminaries of this project, that’s worth keeping an eye on, and I’m really looking forward to seeing the working school with my own eyes.  May be a podcast in this 😉

Way more than 2¢

Pictures to come!

Technorati Tags:


This is a picture I took last night, during my interview with Martin.  It’s an auction house where WOW players can auction off their items for currency.

I got my first comment in ages on Connect Learning (my occasionally posted podcasts) last night, only minutes after the podcast was uploaded.  The program is an interview with my son, Martin, while he’s playing the video game, World of Warcraft.  It’s an enormously popular MMORPG, evidenced by the 48 item bibliography in its Wikipedia article.  By the way, MMORPG stands for Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game.  Please go over and give the podcast a listen, and see some of the pictures I too with my phone during the interview.  There isn’t a lot of education value to the podcast, other than trying to illustrate the compelling nature of these games — resulting in edu-blogger, Tom Turner’s comment.

Connect Learning, with David Warlick » Episode 77 — A Tour of World of Warcraft:

EGADS…World of Warcraft. Played for 2 years plus 6 months of beta testing before release! I’m glad to have gotten that monkey off my back when I quit playing back in late September. I can honestly say that quitting has been the best thing for me…I’m concentrating more on my classroom, researching and reading blogs such as this and really pushed me to beginning my own blog.

I have to admit a certain amount of disappointment and apprehension when Martin mentioned a couple of months ago that he was playing video games again.  He was nearly obsessive about it a few years ago, though, as he mentioned in the podcast, he likes to get out and do stuff with his friends.  I’m not worried.  His passion is music, which is his college major, and I really don’t worry about anything getting in the way of that — and as I implied in yesterday’s blog, there are probably worse things that I could be worried about. 

My interest continues to be in examining what it is that is so compelling about these video games, and how do we implement these elements into how we run our classrooms, to make them (nearly) as compelling.

It all takes me back to an age before WWW.  The dark ages of FTP, Gopher, telnet, and something called M.U.D.s or Mult-User Domains.  They were quite similar to World of War Craft, except that in the primitive days before Netscape and Internet Explorer (and their grandfather, Mosaic), there were no graphics.  It was all text-based.

OK, picture this ;-).  You connect to a host server through Telnet (don’t worry about it), and you sudden read a paragraph that describes in carefully selected adjectives, an office, with paneled walls, victorian furniture, and a large oak desk.  On the desk you see ….  You get the picture.  What’s more, at the bottom of the description is a list of commands you can issue.  Go north (if there’s a door to the north), go south, pick  up diary, open drawer, … It is fully interactive, and if you enter a room where other people (logged in through Telnet) are exploring, they and their description become part of the landscape and you can talk to them and emot gestures.  I was usually a tall black man with dreadlocks, dressed in a gray sport coat, starched white shirt, and dingy bluejeans.  It was compelling and it was a scandal as kids were flunking out of college because they spent their waking hours in MUDS.

Yet there were some very interesting things going on in the world of education.  MIT had a MUD called MediMOO.  I had an office there and attended meetings and discussions with other educators who were exploring the education applications.  Specifically, we were interested in building worlds in these MUDs that might be educationally beneficial to students.  Our capital newspaper, the News & Observer, who hosted one of the first three ISPs in North Carolina, established a MUD, and I built a museum there called The Museum of Imagination.  Students were invited to come to the museum, and contribute their own exhibits.  In each room was a wire bin, holding what were called generic exhibits.  If a student wanted to contribute an 18th century printing press (much of the theme was about new reporting), then they could pick up a generic exhibit, and attach the description of a two-hundred year old printing press.  Then drop the exhibit in the room where visitor could see (read) it.  There was also the Hall of a Hundred Haikus.  Students could pull a cube from the ceiling of the hall, write an original haiku on it, and put it back, contributing their own haiku cube for others to read.  There was also a museum cafe with robotic waiters with an attitude.  The Couscous was wonderful 😉

A group at the University of Arizona took it ten steps forward when they invited a group of at-risk, previously suspended middle school students into a MUD that was essentially flat asphalt.  The kids were asked to build a city for themselves.  These students, whom you couldn’t get to write their names in a traditional classroom, wrote megabytes that summer, as they built their homes and city by describing them in the MUD.  Educators from around the world attended to mentor the students online.  I got to attend their online, MUD-based graduation, and their parents attended as well in real life.  Most of these parents had never been invited to school for anything except discipline issues.  Several of them commented that  their children, for the first time, were coming home talking for hours about school.

In 1992, I interviewed some of the teachers involved in this project in my office at MIT’s MediaMOO.  I had a virtual camera in the room which recorded the entire (text-based) conversation.  I included this interview in the first couple of editions of Raw Materials for the Mind.  You can read a PDF copy of it here.

This was really cool stuff.  What if we had an MMORPG that started with flat asphalt, and asked students to build their world around their curriculum?

2¢ Worth

Technorati Tags:

Social Networking Examined

Yesterday, the Pew Internet Project, a non-profit, non-partisan initiative of the Pew Research Center, issued a press release of their recent study (55% of online… / PDF version) about online youth in the United States and social networks.  The principal finding of that study revealed that 55% of online teens use social networks.  To some degree, this percentage, though high, seems to contridict society’s notions about teens and their online world.

“There is a widespread notion that every American teenager is using social networks, and that they’re plastering personal information over their profiles for anyone and everyone to read,” says Amanda Lenhart. “These findings add nuance to that story – not every teenager is using a social networking website, and of those that do, more than half of them have in some way restricted access to their profile.”(“55% of online teens”)

I guess if it was me, I’d rather be out in that field playing frisby or football — and I think my children would too.

Findings of the study indicate that 66% of social networking teens have their profiles blocked from view by anyone but their friends.  Now this news certainly does not mean that there is no longer reason for concern, that there is no longer a need to somehow help students learn to use social networks responsibly and safely, because many are not.  But it does seem that the sensational warnings of some new media and politicians have less basis in reality than they imply.

All that said, let’s look at this from the other direction.  55% of online teens use social networks.  According to the report 48% visit social networking sites at least once a day.  22% visit them several times a day.  Girls appear to spend more time engaged in these activities, especially older girls, and they use the sites to manage their existing friendships.

Is this important?  Is this something that we should be paying attention to, as educators in or efforts to educate?  I’ve been thinking about this for the last several hours and even discussed it with my very smart and focused wife — and activity that almost never simplifies things for me 😉

And I guess I want to build some context for this as an educator — and I guess I want to know what at least 55% my generation of youngsters did together.  I think about what I did as a youngster and I know that 55% of us didn’t play sports or go to the ball games.  55% of us didn’t date.  55% of us didn’t join clubs at school or regularly visit the library.  55% of us didn’t look at hot-rod magazines.

At least 55% of us did watch TV, listen to music, and go to school.  At some point 55% of us planned to go to college and graduate, though I suspect that it didn’t really happen.  My wife says that it is important that most of us had the run of our neighborhoods (where I lived, we had the run of the whole town), and we spent time with our friends figuring out how to play our neighborhoods and our towns.  My wife made the point that we could never grant our children the run of our very middle class and seemingly safe neighborhood.

The question I keep coming back to is what did 55% of pre-digital youngsters do that involved literacy?  What opportunities for teaching literacy are we wasting by walling out and ignoring social networking?

I asked my wife, “If students used social networking applications in school, within the context of productive endeavors to learn and to produce from their learning, and they developed productive habits from their time in school-based social networks, might that affect how they use social networks in their own time, using them more productively and more safely? “

What do you think?

55% of online teens use social networks and 55% have created online profiles; older girls predominate.” Pew Internet & American Life Project. 7 Jan 2007. Pew Research Center. 8 Jan 2007 <http://www.pewinternet.org/press_release.asp?r=134>.

Hawaii, “Browsing.” Hawaii’s Photostream. 27 Oct 2006. 8 Jan 2007 <http://www.flickr.com/photos/hawaii/280346368/>.

Technorati Tags:

WiFi May be Coming Soon — Well probably not this week…

A few weeks ago I wrote about efforts in Lafayette, Louisiana to create a municipal WiFi network for their town.  It seems that the idea of WiFi for the masses is growing, according to this Time Magazine article.

TIME.com Print Page: TIME Magazine — Welcome to Wi-Fi-Ville Pop. 300 towns and growing:

Municipal wi-fi will be coming soon to a city near you, from tiny towns like Adel, Ga., to sprawling locales like Boston and San Francisco. Municipalities are promoting competition to drive down broadband prices and bring high-speed access to rural areas stuck with dial-up. Big telcos such as Verizon and AT&T, having first tried to fend off wi-fi in state legislatures, have also joined the battle to own and operate these systems. More than 300 communities nationwide plan to have wireless ventures in the next year, according to MuniWireless.com a portal on city projects. Several dozen small cities–including Corpus Christi; Tempe, Ariz.; and Chaska, Minn.– already have full-blown systems in use. If 2006 was the year of making deals, 2007 promises to be the year of going live.

Questions remain.

..Big questions remain: What will consumers pay for citywide access? Will advertising sustain free models? And will users really be attracted to a network that lacks speed, security and privacy? The risks are considerable–up to $25 million in capital costs per system plus operating funds. “Half the cities run into funding barriers,” says Peter Orne, Wireless Internet Institute’s editorial director. “We’re still waiting for an unqualified big-city success.”

Technorati Tags: