Thursday, March 13, 2008

Alverno College Pre-Service Teacher Meeting

I had the good fortune and privilege to speak with 16 pre-service teachers in Alverno College's teacher pre-service teacher program this morning. Pat Walsh, who is taking over as the facilitator of this class titled, "Technology in Education," called me 1 week ago asking if I'd be willing to host a class session on our campus. Pat's colleague who started out at the instructor was unable to continue due to health complications. I said I would be happy to host the class and I also thought up an activity to have the students participate in prior to our visit today. After hanging up with Pat, I called her back and suggested that her students watch Sir Ken Robinson's wonderful TED Talk titled, "Do Schools Kill Creativity?" Students watched the 20 minute clip and then reflected on the video and introduced themselves to me in the form of a text comment on a Voicethread that I emailed over to Pat. You can click here to meet these wonderful students!

I really enjoyed our time today. I most likely spoke way to much and threw too many ideas and concepts at them, but this was the first time that I've ever met with a group of pre-service teachers and I wanted to show them as many possibilities as our short amount of time would allow. We started out our meeting with a visit from my colleague and peer down at Plano Middle School, Scott Meech. It was nice of Scott to take time away from his busy day today to speak with us about some of the things we've been up to in our Protecht project. We talked about how we use some of these tools to collaborate and work with one another even though we're scattered all across the country. Scott brought up the concept of the "back channel" which was something unfamiliar to this group. Vicki Davis, the "Cool Cat Teacher" from Camilla, Georgia, wrote an interesting blog post on using a back channel with students. We did have one of the students talk about how she uses SMS messaging on her cell to back channel and talk with other students in class. This was interesting, as I've read quite bit about cell phones as instructional tools this year. Anyway, it was great to bring Scott into the mix as he always brings up interesting points that make you think and I'm glad the students were introduced to Skype as a way to invite remote guests into a classroom environment.

After our talk with Scott, we took a look at Karl Fisch's "Did You Know Video" and followed this up with a brief discussion. I've used this video this year with parents, teachers and now pre-service teachers. It is such a great piece to frame any discussion on what it means to teach and learn in the 21st century.

After our Skype conversation with Scott we fired up Ustream and broadcast our session. I twittered out the ustream URL and we had 3 or 4 other folks tune in (thanks to jepcke, jerthebear, and plennig for joining in the conversation via the chat box in ustream-I'm sorry I wasn't able to check the chat box...for those of you who would like to see the chat transcript, click here). I also sent out a Twitter post asking some of my twitter buddies to say hello. I think the impact of twitter, Ustream and Scott's visit via Skype really had an impact on this group. We received hello messages from my Twitterbuddies all over the world, which was pretty powerful for them to see. I took three screenshots of the Twitter replies to our group... these are posted online: Screenshot 1, screenshot 2, screenshot 3.

I was quite impressed with this group-I think they're going to take some of these ideas and concepts and run for miles and miles. Many of them are already using Facebook and tools with similar features and capabilities. I hope that they can tweak things a bit and customize the way they use these tools so they can be leveraged as instructional assets in their classrooms (or "studios" and "global communications centers" as we talked about!)

As promised, I told Pat that I would provide a link to the list of "Emerging Technologies" that Ryan Bretag twittered out last night (talk about just in time professional exchanges!) You may find this document online by clicking here. I'm fairly certain that this document was created collaboratively by folks in Ryan's professional learning network (PLNs-for more on PLNs, check out Vinnie Vrotny's K12 Online conference session on PLNs from last fall).

Today we also talked about productivity tools in comparison to creativity tools. To me, the tools that we talked about today are ones that promote and foster creativity. Here are the tools that I currently use most often to collaborate, communicate, learn, create, and engage in professional development:
*Actually, all of the "Plain English" CommonCraft videos are excellent. Lee Lefever has videos that explain blogging, Twitter, Wikis, social networking, and other concepts in "Plain English." Click here for the CommonCraft channel on YouTube.

The recorded conversation and slides from today's meeting with the Alverno students is embedded below. At some point I'll edit down the recorded audio and post that here as well.

*Photo courtesy of a user on flickr who gave me explicit permission to use this photo for educational purposes (name is not mentioned because it isn't "K12 friendly")

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Web 2.0 Overview for Administrators

This is meant to be a little guide for administrators on the world of web2.0 and 21st century learning. Surf some of the links, read some of the articles, listen to some of the podcasts, and perhaps even create a few accounts. There is simply no better to learn about these methods and tools than to plunk around with them a bit.

Blogs to Read:
  • Wesley Fryer's Moving at the Speed of Creativity - Wesley was a former 4th grade teacher and is now a professional development consultant for AT & T's education division. He leads workshops for schools and is a regular presenter at national/international conferences. His podcasts are located at his blog as well - his podcast series are an excellent professional development tool.
  • Chris Lehman's, "Practical Theory...A View from the Classroom," blog. Chris is the principal at Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia.
  • Leadertalk-Leadertalk is a collaborative blog written by administrators from across the country (I believe there are a few international contributors as well). This is a great example of administrators sharing and dialogging about K12 education and best practices.
  • Alan November's blog - Alan is our keynote speaker for our October 2008 mini-conference day on 21st century learning
  • Darren Kuropatwa blog - Darren is an AP Calculus teacher in Manitoba, Canada.
  • Dr. Tim Tyson's Blog - Tim is a school principal and maintains a wonderful blog resource.
  • Cool Cat Teacher Blog - Vicki Davis is a teacher from Camilla, Georgia. She and her students have done some fantastic projects involving teachers and students from across the world. Her "Flatclassroom" project is an excellent sample of an effective global classroom project.
  • Yahoo teacher blogs - a wonderful collection of some powerful classroom projects that involve collaboration and communication across ehey whau
All of these blogs have links to other blogs that the author reads on a regular basis. Take a look at the blogs that they link to.

Things to try:
  • Read some of the blogs above...leave a comment on a few of the posts that you read.
  • Join the Independent School Educators Network online Ning community. As of March 2008 the ISEN network has over 800 members from all over globe. This is a great tool for sharing and collaborating with other independent school teachers and administrators. After creating an account, join the group called, "Administration," which currently has over 55 members.
  • Listen to Wesley Fryer's recent podcast from his presentation to Oklahoma superintendents and school principals. The title of his presentation is, "Let's Invent the Future...A Presentation for Oklahoma Superintendents." Click the little play button at the end of his post to listen.
  • Listen to Women of the Web's "Super Administrators" podcast. "Women of the Web" is a weekly live webcast (Tuesday nights at 8:00 PM CST) and they have a wide range of show topics and guests. Vicki Davis (Cool Cat Teacher blog from above) is one of the hosts. In this particular episode they had a conversation with Chris Lehman, principal from Philadelphia's Science Leadership Academy and Kelly Christopherson, a principal from Eston, Saskatchewan.

Videos to View:

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Meme: Passion Quilt

I was recently tagged by Liz Davis, Cindy Seibel, Susan Carter Morgan to participate in the passion quilt meme. I've never done one of these, but I enjoyed seeing their photos and reading their passion quilt reflections so I figured what the heck.

"Daring ideas are like chessmen moved forward. They may be beaten, but they start a winning game." I'm not actually certain who said this, but I've long been a fan of this quote. I'm passionate about trying new things, thinking outside of the box, and "daring ideas." I always have had this type of passion and I hope I always will. I hope in some small way that I pass this passion along to the students that I have the good fortune of working with.

I hereby tag the following for the Passion Quilt Meme:
Lorna Costantini
Patrick Woessner
Jess McCulloch
Scott Meech
Dennis Richards

Passion Quilt Meme Rules:
1. Think about what you are passionate about teaching your students.
2. Post a picture from a source like FlickrCC or Flickr Creative Commons or make/take your own that captures what YOU are most passionate about for kids to learn about…and give your picture a short title.
3. Title your blog post “Meme: Passion Quilt” and link back to this blog entry.
4. Include links to 5 folks in your professional learning network or whom you follow on Twitter/Pownce.

**Photo courtesy of Lorrie McClanahan on flickr (Creative Commons, non-commerical)

Parent Web2.0 Study Group Meeting #2 Reflection

Our second parent study group session took place this past Friday at the Mequon Library. We were lucky enough to be joined by USM parent, Anne Reed, who shared her story about how she joined the "Blogosphere" and the "read/write" web. We had 12 parents join us in person for the conversation, and another 2-3 parents joined in virtually via the ustream broadcast as well (I've embedded the recording from ustream at the end of the post).

I have several take-aways that I'd like to highlight in this post. I'm also dropping in as many links as I can from our conversation for parent follow up.

1. "I can tell you that as an adult, knowing how to use these tools is highly valued." This is a paraphrase of one of Anne's comments near the end of her talk, but it really struck me. Anne shared her blog, her facebook profile and the blogs of some other individuals in her network. She shared a tool on her facebook profile that allows visitors the opportunity to donate to the Meta House, which is an organization dedicated to providing assistance to women in the Milwaukee area who are battling substance abuse issues. So often we get caught up in the hype of the negative aspects of social is an incredibly powerful example of a positive way to utilize these tools.

2. A blog is a powerful tool that supports creativity. Anne mentioned that her blog is a creative professional tool. I feel the exact same way.

3. Start a blog and you'll be invited to speak in Japan! This is what happened to Anne. She was contacted by some folks in Japan to give a talk about some changes that they're making in their legal system. I know of at least one other person who has been contacted for a speaking engagement as a result of their blog. I was actually contacted not too long ago about a potential consulting opportunity as well, but at this point the arrangement isn't firm. While you may not be invited to speak at a conference half-way around the world as a result of your blog, there is a high probability that there will be a few positive unanticipated consequences as a result of your engagement in the "blogosphere."

4. Anne's transformation from a skeptic to a creative user of these tools is a story that I'm quite familiar with. Her story is quite similar to mine and other peers in my professional network. I believe most adults will move through a similar path as they develop in their understanding of these new participatory media tools.

5. Anne is clearly a wonderful writer. Her blog posts are incredibly well written and I'm jealous of her ability to write short, succinct and powerful posts. However, I'm a firm believer that we can all participate even if we don't currently possess Anne's skills. A blog is a wonderful tool for writers of all abilities to hone their writing skills and find their voice.

6. My final take-away is that the parents in this study group are AWESOME! I was really impressed with the high quality conversations that we had on Friday. I think the group is incredibly supportive of one another as we all grapple with the challenges of parenting in the 21st century.

Resource Links:

Awesome videos that explain things like blogs, wikis and RSS. These are all very short videos:
1. Blogs in Plain English
2. Wikis in Plain English
3. RSS in Plain English
4. Twitter in Plain English (this just came out TODAY!!)

Video recording of our conversation with Anne:

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

eeePC for a Week

Over the next week or so I'm going to try to use this EeePC. We've had this little computer here at USM since late November and we've pretty much been loaning it out to students to use. Student reviews have been quite positive and I'm really looking forward to using this device to write blog posts, skype, check email, write in google docs, etc. I'll be cheating a little bit by using my MacBook Pro during parent teacher conferences this week to check grades and share student projects with parents, but for the most part I'm going to give this device a shot. My big concern with the unit is the keyboard and right now I find myself writing fairly quickly with a slightly modified home key position (I'm composing this blog post from the eee right now).

Stay tuned to my twitter posts and blog posts for updates on my experience with the EeePC!