Sunday, December 30, 2007

My Top 5 Photos

On the heels of my recent blog post on my "Top 5 Education Related" videos for 2007 and after reading Ewan McIntosh's post today on his "Top 5 Photos" of 2007, I figured I'd create a top 5 photo post of my own. Below you'll find my favorite photos taken in 2007 and posted to my flickr account. My photos on flickr certainly don't have a great following and definitely won't be winning any awards, but reflecting on my favorite photos from 2007 definitely highlights some of the important events in both my professional and personal lives.

Here we go (drum roll please!!!):

Zebra Zap Electric Car-I snapped this photo while I was on a tour of larger scale solar photo-voltaic installations in southern California this past September. With 20 views, this happens to be one of my most popular flickr photos (pretty pathetic, I know!!!) I was actually out at the National Solar Power 2007 Conference in Long Beach, CA on a teacher scholarship from our local energy utility to learn more about the solar power industry. More on the conference at a separate blog I created while I was out there - Solar Power 2007-WE Energies Grant Program.

Devil's Island Sea Cave Column and Arch-My wife and I have kayaked the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior on three different occasions. We are pretty much beginner-intermediate paddlers and we tend to be pretty cautious in our trip itinerary. As a result, we've never been able to get out to the northern most island, Devil's Island. Devil's Island is known to have some of the most spectacular sea cave formations in the Apostles and arguably in the world. So when my wife and I caught the perfect wind on the third day of our trip this past summer and paddled out to Devil's Island from York Island, we were extremely excited. We snapped several photos of the beautiful arches, columns and caves as we circled the northern end of the island. Below is one of my favorites:

NCSS 2007 with Social Studies Department Teachers, Brian Markwald, Chuck Taft, and Will Piper-This was my second year in a row visiting the National Social Studies Teacher Convention. This year it took place in the beautiful city of San Diego, California in late November/early December. The conference itself was loaded with sessions dealing with web2.0 technologies, but what I enjoyed most were the many informal professional and personal conversations we had throughout the weekend. One of the main reasons why I love my work so much is that I'm surrounded with fun, creative and energetic personalities like Will, Chuck and Brian. Pictures from the conference may be surfed at my flickr account and I wrote a more complete summary of the conference in a blog post from a few weeks ago. My favorite picture from our conference is included below:

Michigan High School State Hockey Championship - In March of 2007 I had the good fortune of making it back to the Detroit area to see my nephew, Tim Shield, participate in the championship game of the state hockey tournament. Not only did Tim's team win the game, but Tim scored the game winning goal in overtime to help his high school team, Grosse Pointe South, capture their first ever State Championship title in boys ice hockey. What a great thrill this was! Below you'll see me pictured with Tim who is holding the state title trophy.

I said I would feature my top 5 photos from the year, but I'm going to leave it at four photos. Wishing everyone a Happy New Year!!

Top Videos from 2007

I was inspired by a recent Tweet to a blogger's post on her Top 10 Education Related videos for the year. I do apologize for not referencing the blogger and the post, but I can't seem to find the URL and my twitter time line only keeps track of a limited history. I will revise this post if I can dig up the link. Anyhow, here are my top 5 education-related videos from the past year.

#1: Karl Fisch's Did You Know 2.0
We've shared this video in our faculty web 2.0 study group and with a group of middle school parents at a recent parent education meeting. It triggered interesting conversation with both groups. Simply an outstanding piece that really makes you think...

#2: All Things Commoncraft!
These short videos have been extremely helpful in explaining web 2.0 technologies to folks who are new to blogs, wikis and like technologies. Lee Lee Lefever has the ability to break down and explain some relatively tricky concepts in a very simple manner. Below you'll find the Commoncraft video that gives an overview of Google Docs:

#3: One Laptop Per Child Program's Give One Get One Campaign:
I think the One Laptop Per Child program is one of the most revolutionary concepts/ideas of the 21st century. Creating the conduit for children all over the world to connect with information and other people will change things dramatically. Of course this change will not happen over night, but it will happen. I'm also excited because I'm the proud new owner of an XO laptop myself!

#4: Elementary School Student Art Reflections via/ Voicethread:
Voicethread is a very easy to use multimedia publishing application that fosters collaboration and communication. I've seen many interesting student project in voicethread over the past few months, but the one I'm embedding below is from a group of young elementary students at a school in Texas (thanks to Brian Grenier for posting this via twitter). It provides a nice sample of the effective use of voicethread for student publishing and project reflection.

#5: Inside of a Wind Turbine:
Last spring fellow teacher Kip Jacobs and I took a small group of interested students up to Byron, Wisconsin to take a tour Wisconsin Electric's wind turbine facility. We actually were able to go inside of the turbine where one of our students turned the rotors off and on again. Below is a short clip of the inside of the turbine that I took and posted to YouTube. My point of including this clip in my top 5 videos for the year is to show that everyone can participate in contributing and creating content on the web. This short clip has had well over 2300 views! The reason for so many views isn't because this is some great work of art-it is because there are probably very few clips in the world from the inside of an operational wind turbine. This demonstrates that a small guy like myself can create content that is of interest and use to many other individuals out there.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Great Video

GREAT video here...just a good old gut buster! It finally answers the question, "Did Vista rip off Apple OS X?"

EEE PC-Student Reviews

The Asus EEE PC is a low cost, micro laptop computer that is super small, super mobile and runs Linux as the OS. USM purchased one a few weeks ago for evaluating and testing out. We purchased the 4 GB, $399 model. We also purchased an XO unit for evaluation and we'll have students test driving this as soon as it comes in as well.

Over the past two weeks we've had several 8th grade students take the computer for a test drive. I basically handed off the unit to the students with zero instruction - it has been great to watch them play with it and figure it out on their own. Alex B used it for 5 days, taking it home every night and using it on his home WiFi network. He'll eventually be completing a video review of the device from a student's perspective (I'm really looking forward to his review as I value his opinion on these types of things). A couple of other students demoed the unit and will be doing some type of review as well.

Yesterday Colleen W. used the computer throughout the school day and she wrote a very nice review that can be read here. This is the first review from a student and I really enjoyed her perspective and thoughts on the device. I probably learned more from Colleen's review than any I've read on the internet to date! I'll keep publishing these reviews as we receive them.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Parent meeting follow-up

We had a nice gathering this afternoon of Middle School parents where we discussed some of the "current events" in the Middle School. One of the agenda items involved a brief little technology update. We started out by firing up ustream and taking a look into Chuck Taft's classroom as his students were giving their presentations on life on the home front during the Civil War. As soon as I texted a little "hello" to Chuck, he had his students all say hello to all of the parents. Parents got a pretty big kick out of this, especially when he grabbed Reed and told him to say hello to his mom who was in attendance at the meeting!

Following the look into Chuck's room we talked a little bit about how we're taking a very close look at the concept of the 21st century classroom. We didn't have a great deal of discussion time, but we did manage to view the entire "Did You Know" video, which is embedded at the end of this blog post. We gave the parents 2-3 minutes to have a little small group discussion following the movie and then we shared some of the highlights with the larger group. I think everyone recognizes that the world is clearly different and will continue to change significantly going forward. I did manage to quote one of Dan Pink's sound bites from his presentation the night before. In his presentation, Pink said, "We need to prepare students for their future, not our past." During our talk we mentioned Daniel Pink's live presentation from Thursday night. His entire presenation was recorded and may be viewed/listened to by clicking here. Be sure to click the "Playback" button when the page loads.

Several parents expressed an interest in learing more about blogs, wikis, podcasts, social media/networking and other tools associated with "Web 2.0." We will try to put together a study group experience for them at some point this year. Stay tuned for more details on this.

Parents: If you have time, try setting up and using one of the following tools:

1. LinkedIn-this is a social networking site targeting the professional community. I haven't used this yet myself, but I do know it is a very popular tool for building and maintaining relationships in the business world.

2. is part of google's suite of applications. It is their blogging tool (it is the blogging tool that I use-several other USM teachers use this as well). There are many other blogging tools out there, but is just about the easiest one to use. Check out this family blog example from a 6th grade social studies teacher that I met a few weeks ago at a conference (be careful, though...he lives in Hawaii and viewing his photos might make you want to move there!)

3. VoiceThread-this is a wonderful tool for sharing pictures and adding voice narration along with the photos. Several of our teachers/students here at USM have used this and it is very, very easy. Check out this voicethread example created by a couple of 5th graders in our media literacy/computer skills class. You might need a voicethread account to view this.

4. Skype-this is a wonderful tool for making calls to other computers and to phone lines. Computer to computer calls are free while computer to cell phones and traditional home phones cost a little money. You can make video calls, have conference calls, and IM with skype. We've used it quite a bit in the middle school this year for connecting with authors and other schools around the country and even around the world (Will Piper's students spoke to a 6th grade class in New Zealand this past week!)

5. flickr! This is an AWESOME photo sharing tool. I like it because it has allowed me to completely organize and backup my entire digital photo collection that I've been maintaining since my wife and I purchased our little digital camera six years ago. flickr has a free service for starters, but for $25/year you get unlimited storage and a host of other features that go along with the "Pro" account. If you are an avid photographer, there are wonderful photography interest groups that you can join. Check out this field guide to the birds of the world group on flickr for a sample of the types of photography groups that you can join. Finally, there are several sites that allow you to do some really fun projects with your photos. Big Huge Labs is one of those sites. Have fun with flickr!

The books that we referenced are in today's talk follow below:
-Daniel Pink's book, A Whole New Mind
-Don Tapscott's Book, Wikimonics.

**photo courtesy of patrick q on flickr (creative commons non-commercial)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Making Connections-Developing Your Own Personal Learning Community

Many of the teachers that I work with in the Middle School at University School of Milwaukee asked about how I 'met' some of the people that we skyped with at Monday's division meeting. With the exception of Gene Yang who Laurie established a connection with earlier this year, I met the other two teachers using several different social networking tools. I'm going to do my best to explain the networking tools that I've been using over the past 2 months to develop my personal learning community (or personal learning network-PLN for short).

Some of the tools I'm using to connect with others:

1. Twitter-twitter is a combination of email, a blog, and IM all rolled into one. The great thing about twitter is that you are limited to 140 characters and you answer the question, "What am I doing right now?." I use it to tell others about interesting projects in the Middle School that we're engaged in, interesting classroom projects that are going on, etc. If you try it, don't be surprised if you don't like it at first. I didn't like it at first, but now it is one of my most useful tools for developing connections with other teachers. I'm 'mjmonty' on twitter-be sure to follow me when you create your account!

A couple of twitter tips to get you started:
  1. Include a link to a blog, wiki, or website that you use for professional purposes. When you choose to follow certain people they receive a notification that you are following them. The are more likely to reciprocate and follow you if you have a link to your blog, wiki, website, etc.
  2. Search for people to follow by using the search feature at the twitter home page or by using TwitDir. The first thing I tend to look for in someone to follow is how often they make updates. If they haven't updated in several months, I don't follow them. Also, check out their blog or web link to make certain this is someone with ties to education. Finally, if you notice a huge disparity between followers and following, stay away (for example, if they are following 2500 people but only have 3 followers themselves, don't add them!) On the flipside, folks when many more followers than they are actually following usually means they have some good ideas that they're sharing.
  3. Sift through some of their updates prior to adding them. What kinds of things are the posting? Don't be afraid of someone who shares some personal information-this is OK as it helps establish rapport (just like it would help establish rapport in face to face relationships). However, if the only thing they are twittering about is personal business, you might want to move on.
  4. Take a look at my twitter home page to get an idea of some of the people I'm following. Most of the folks I follow are in the field of instructional technology, but I'm also following some english teachers, social studies teachers and a few elementary school teachers (I find some of the most interesting projects from my elementary teacher peers).
2. Classroom 2.0 - This is a "ning" social networking tool. It is an awesome place for meeting other educators from all around the world. This is where I met Chrissy, the 6th grade teacher that we skyped with in New Zealand.

3. Independent School Educators Network - This is a social network intended to be utilized by both teachers and students at Independent Schools. I used this tool to refine and improve our idea for our 21st Century Connections workshop the other night at our faculty meeting by posting the initial idea in the forum and asking others to critique it.

4. Skype - Skype typically isn't the place where you establish your first connections with other educators. It is a tool that you use to extend your conversations after you've developed some rapport online with some folks.

I'm certainly not an expert in the area of personal learning networks. I do know that PLNs are incredibly powerful and have changed me as an educator and instructional technology practitioner significantly. A peer of mine down at North Shore Country Day in Chicago, Vinnie Vrotny, did an awesome presentation on personal learning networks this past fall at the K12 Online conference. If you want to learn more about PLNs, I highly recommend that you listen to Vinnie's presentation as it is outstanding.

Best of luck developing your own personal learning network and making connections with other teachers and students around the globe!

*photo courtesy of MR+G on flickr (creative commons non-commercial)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

December 10th Division Meeting Summary

Yesterday's professional development experience after school turned out very well (the ustream broadcast from the demo portion is included at the end of this blog post). At University School we typically have a "Division" meeting each month - this time is usually devoted to professional development of some sort, announcements, etc. December's meeting centered around the topic of 21st Century Tools. I appreciate Pam Nosbusch, our Head of Middle School, setting time aside to allow us to take a look at some of these tools and concepts.

Highlights from the PD Experience:

Student Involvement
We had ten students stay after school and join us for this meeting-the kids were great! Students were assigned to work with the different department teams - they really like to teach the teachers. I popped into the math department to see how everything was going and Alex B, an 8th grade student, was busy using the smart board to show the teachers how to add photos and comments to a voicethread project.

Teacher Participation
I'm fortunate to work at a place where teachers are so willing to try new things and take risks. It was so much fun to walk around during the break-out sessions and watch each department team in action. They were working together, talking and engaged in the process. It was great to see-I consider myself quite fortunate to work with such a creative, talented, and professional group of people. See some of their complete projects online at the Middle School professional development wiki.

Skype Call Reflection
At the end of the experience, we did a skype call with all of the departments who were in different locations throughout the Middle School. Each department summarized their experience during this call-at the end of the call, Pam thanked everyone for their work and was sure to thank our special guests and student helpers. Even though this was a little forced, I'm glad we did this because it gave everyone the chance to play with skye a bit more.

Skype calls to St. Louis, Oakland and New Zealand!
The Skype Calls might have been the highlight. Our first conversation was with Elizabeth Helfant, the Instructional Technology Coordinator at Mary Institute St. Louis Country Day School. Elizabeth was a wonderful guest and talked about everything from how her school is using Skype to some of the asynchronous tools that the teachers and students at MICDS used for the flat classroom project. We then skyped Gene Yang, author of An American Born Chinese. Our 8th grade English Teacher, Laurie Barth, led us through another very interesting Q/A session with Gene. The third call was to Chrissy in New Zealand, who teaches a year 11 classroom in Hawkes Bay. Chrissy was great-she talked about how they use skype to make connections and bring people in from all over the world. I love how she uses this tool in her classroom-she leaves it on all day long and is regularly receiving calls from all corners of the world. If they are in the middle of Math, they stop what they're doing for 10 minutes and interact with their classroom 'visitor.' What an authentic way to learn.

Break-out sessions
These went well, but we clearly didn't have enough time. I think we did our best to provide the opportunity for people to talk, play, collaborate and create. Even though most groups did not get a product created due to not having nearly enough time, everyone appeared to be talking and engaged in the process. Additionally, the characteristics of these tools allow the projects to be worked on at any time in the future. See our english department's work sample online now!

Things I wish we could've done more of:
Reflection/processing time. This is about the only thing I wish we had more time for (although I did cut out the viewing of the "Did You Know Video" which I really wanted to share with the faculty). While we did have some time in the form of the skype call, I wish we could've done more processing, reflecting and sharing.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

A whole new way to go to a conference...

My experience at this year's NCSS conference in San Diego, California was markedly different than any other learning experience I've ever had. This is primarily due to the connectivity that the complimentary WiFi coverage permitted. Armed with a laptop, a cheap digital camera, and a few cheap web based tools like this blog, I've managed to not only process and reflect upon my experience on the fly, but to also report it out to people that aren't even here!

The experience has been amazing! I feel like a learner, field reporter, scribe, teacher, history buff, and a colleague all wrapped up in one. In a matter of 24 hours, I've broadcast two presentations that were each 60 minutes in length. The presentations were broadcast back to the school I teach at and to a few peers in my professional learning network. Both presentations are archived on my blog. While the presentations were in progress, I dialogued with my peers and colleagues via skype and the chat feature in ustream. Over the course of the day I've managed to take many pictures and post them online at my flickr account. I've saved a dozen or so web links to my delicious account.

Some folks might question the manner in which I participated in this experience as being overly connected. In addition to all of the online activity mentioned above, I've also conversed and exchanged ideas for several hours with my colleagues, Will Piper, Brian Markwald, and Chuck Taft. We've discussed conference highs/lows, individual sessions, ideas for projects at USM and we even talked about ideas for having one of us do another presentation in the future at NCSS. Perhaps the highlight was attending the NBC function on Friday night where they debuted the release of their archival media footage through HotChalk. I've also managed to meet and talk to a few teachers and students from other parts of the country-forming at least one take-away connection a pre-conference goals. I met a neat guy this morning who is a teacher at a private school in Hawaii (trying to arrange a school visit for us of course!)

This was an incredibly unique experience for me this year...I'm already looking forward to NCSS 2008 in Houston!!