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)

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