Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Definition of ePortfolios via Charts

I think these two graphs that Helen Barrett reposted from New Zealand educator Nick Rate's blog do an outstanding job of explaining ePortfolios in a VERY simple manner. I created a longish, boring, 8 minute video on ePortfolios that wasn't nearly as effective as these two charts. Thanks to Helen for posting and props to Nick on his fine work.

The Perfect Student Laptop

I've been talking to several students about our school's upcoming laptop program and many are not that excited about it because they are not looking forward to carrying around a heavy laptop in addition to all of their books, binders, notebooks, and other school materials. I completely understand where they are coming from.

Considering this scenario, I think there will be a premium in the first few years of our laptop program on form factor. This convertible tablet PC from 2GOPC very well might be the best student laptop option given the fact that there will be a premium on a device that is light, durable, easy to carry, flexible, highly portable, and inexpensive.

What are your thoughts? Given that next year our students will be adding laptop computers to their already exploding backpack sizes, what computer do you think will be the "perfect" student laptop for students in grades 6-12 (ages 12-18)?

NOTE: Our laptop program is built on an open, OS agnostic model. Students and families are permitted to choose the OS and form factor (from netbook to full size laptop) that will work best for them (their system must meet a few basic minimum requirements that we've specified).

Saturday, December 19, 2009

My Year in Photos & Videos

As a way to reflect on my year on both a professional and personal level, I went ahead and pulled interesting photos and videos that I posted online during 2009. Where ever you happen to be in the world, I hope you and your family have a most happy start to the New Year! Thank you for taking the time to read my blog this past year.

January 2009
I started out with the best intentions of fully participating in the 365 Photo project (eg-you take a picture a day, post it online, and share it with the various 365 photo groups on flickr). I did make it nearly 100 days. However, I found that I simply couldn't keep up with this over time. Not even this shiny new Panasonic Lumix camera could keep me in the project!

February 2009
Over my February break Erin and I visited with my sister and family while they were on vacation in Park City, Utah. Here is a short little video of my cute little nephew, Jack:

March 2009
This is one of my most viewed flickr photos, which I find kind of bizarre. In this photo you'll see a 10.1" HP Netbook connected to a large display, keyboard, and mouse. This was part of some experimentation that we did with netbooks at my school. This was important work as netbooks will play an important role in our school's laptop program which will launch at the start of the 2010-2011 school year.

April 2009
This turned out to be photo number 103 in my effort to participate in the 365 Photo project. This is my cat, Bucky, and I caught him in the backyard one day sitting in this pot.

Also in April, the Earthbridges team completed another very successful 24 Hour Live broadcast on Earth Day. Below is a photo of my webcasting setup taken after the 24 hour webcast was over. Hover over the photo to see the "anatomy of a webcast":

May 2009
Erin and I visited Yosemite National Park for our very first time. Here is a short little video of our hike to the top of Half Dome:

Yosemite 2009 from Matt Montagne on Vimeo.

June 2009
Our school transitioned away from Firstclass to the much more powerful, flexible, useful, accessible, user-friendly, relevant, standards-compliant, and collaborative (oh, and did I mention FREE) Google Apps for Education platform. As luck would have it, our neighbor, a google engineer, was moving out at the same time as our transition and sold this cool lamp to me. It is now proudly on display office desk.

July 2009
Erin and I went on a fairly epic car camping trip up the California coast into Oregon, over to Crater Lake, and then down through Lassen Volcanic National Park in California. Here is a photograph of Erin and I standing on the top of Wizard Island, which is a volcano in the middle of Crater Lake.

August 2009
August was a busy month for me. I was lucky enough to travel out to the Google Teacher academy with my teacher buddy here in the Bay Area, Derrall Garrison. Below is the video that I submitted as part of the Google Teacher Academy application process:

My former colleague and master math teacher, Joe Georgeson, and his wife, Linda, visited San Francisco for a week in August. I was able to shoot up to the city to spend the afternoon with them. Following seeing Joe and Linda, I flew to Michigan to spend time with my family. It was great celebrating my birthday with so many of my nieces, nephews, family members, and friends.

Celebrating my birthday with my nieces, nephews, and god-child in Ludington, MI:

September 2009
I attended the sophomore retreat up in the Santa Cruz mountains with my most excellent group of advisees:

October 2009
I had the good fortune to attend an outstanding conference here in the Bay Area at the Nueva School. The conference was stacked with fantastic presenters and learning opportunities. Here is a photo of a session I attended with John Seeley Brown:

November 2009
This is a photo of a co-worker of mine, Adam Contois. Together we were guest "Time-Clock" presenters for a November weekly high school meeting. The "Time Clock" is basically a five minute talk that serves as a fun way to wrap up this student assembly. We created a short little talk with pictures on the "Myths of the Technology Department." This is one of the photos that we shared.

December 2009
A small group of faculty at my school participated in a series of three workshops with Apple on the topic of "Digital Storytelling." For our final session we met at the Apple Store on University Avenue in Palo Alto and shared our projects. 'Twas great fun.

A Culture of Innovation

I read an outstanding blog post yesterday titled, "50 Ways to Foster a Culture of Innovation." This is well worth the 10 minutes of your time to read. Pockets of innovation exist in every organization to one extent or another, but the real challenge, as I see it, is building a culture that supports systemic innovation.

The most compelling of these 50 for me are italicized below. As a self proclaimed "Fire-Ready-Aim" type, these will come as no surprise. Commentary in orange:

2. Wherever you can, whenever you can, always drive fear out of the workplace. Fear is "Public Enemy #1" of an innovative culture. Couldn't agree more...nothing instills a sense of paralysis more than fear in an organization. Fear needs to be rooted out at all costs.
3. Have more fun. If you're not having fun (or at least enjoying the process) something is off. Play, fun and a sense of exploration and discovery are key ingredients in the process of innovation. I think of the fun that these Google engineers had with a fresnel lens on the roof of their office building last year. One note: Sarcasm is the lowest, cheapest form of humor-don't confuse sarcasm for play and fun.
8. Help people broaden their perspective by creating diverse teams and rotating employees into new projects -- especially ones they are fascinated byLet's build structures and opportunities to get us out of our silos. And while we're at it, let's get rid of the silos (including the silos that are built into our electronic communications-EVERYONE in the organization needs to blog, reflect, and share). 
14. Embrace and celebrate failure. 50 to 70 per cent of all new product innovations fail at even the most successful companies. The main difference between companies who succeed at innovation and those who don't isn't their rate of success -- it's the fact that successful companies have a LOT of ideas, pilots, and product innovations in the pipeline.  Yes, yes, yes! We learn most from the process of making mistakes followed by a period of iteration. Celebrate the struggles!
15. Notice innovation efforts. Nurture them wherever they crop up. Reward them. Encourage risk taking and efforts to try new things. Don't do so in the annual review, but instead in simple little day to day gestures, compliments, and even comments on their reflective blog.
32. Avoid analysis paralysis. Chaotic action is preferable to orderly inaction. This is my personal favorite and speaks directly to my "Fire-ready-aim" mentality. To quote BJ Fogg, "Less talk, more action."
A key omission in this comprehensive list is fostering a community of learning and unlearning. If an organization is going to be effective in building systems that support innovation, then regular, ongoing, sustained learning needs to be cultivated. Alternately, the value of unlearning can't be highlighted enough. Just because we did something five years ago doesn't mean that same mode of operandi is relevant to a similar problem (or even the exact same problem).

Sunday, December 13, 2009

1:1 Laptop Learning at Our School Next Year

The 2010-2011 school year will be the first year that all students at my school will be required to bring a laptop to school each day. I'm excited about the model that we've selected because we are not mandating that students purchase a particular model nor are we mandating that they purchase software at this point. Students may use laptops that they already own, which is great as 60-70% of our students already own a laptop (see our 1:1 FAQ doc for the complete details on our plan-we also have some of our work posted at our 1:1 planning site).

The model that we selected gives individuals the element of choice, which I think will lead to some innovativation in and of itself. For example, some kid might choose to purchase a low cost netbook, which leaves extra money available to purchase an eReader and an inexpensive video camera. It also prevents us from locking into a particular platform and model so that when a new innovation comes out (eg, the apple tablet/eReader), we're able to consider integrating this new technology.

A thread about 1:1 learning recently circulated around the California Independent Schools Listserve (of which I'm not a member) and our head of school, Joan Lonergan, responded to a question from one school leader about our 1:1 learning plans. Joan shared her reply with me and I thought she absolutely hit the nail on the head in her description of our 1:1 learning model that we'll be deploying next year. So I asked Joan if I could republish her excellent work in this space and she obliged. Joan's answers follow and any comments that I added are  highlighted below in orange.
Q: Do you have any WRITTEN policies I could review? Contracts with parents?

A: None. We have said we are initiating a 1:1 device program, issued some minimum specs that are desirable for all devices to be used in classes, and said we will support both Macs and PCs on minor repairs in school and provide low end loaners while families take care of major repairs. We have predominantly Apple platform here and an Apple store downtown so we think this will work. We already have a large majority of our students bringing computers of some sort to school with no issues about service, etc. We are now looking at infrastructure issues to make sure we have wireless and electrical capacity campus wide.

Q: What to do is computer is lost, stolen or broken?
A: We have loaners (for loaners we are using low cost, yet powerful HP 5101 10.1" Netbook computers running the Ubuntu Netbook remix-all software is free and open source)

Q: Who purchases the computer? 
A: families independently, not through school

Q: Controls on what is downloaded on the computer?
A: We have a minimum expectation of software and applications should be on all student computers, but we are making a very conscious effort to use as much open source software as possible.

Q: Anything else you considered as you made this decision?? 
A: We have considered every option to be a 1:1 school and opted for the easiest for us and the least restrictive for our families. We are piloting this second semester so will have more to share in June. Matt Montagne is our Academic Tech person whom I have copied. You might want to touch base with him in a few months.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Digital Storytelling Workshop Showcase at the Apple Store Palo Alto

I'm pleased that six other teachers and myself recently participated in a series of three workshops on the topic of movie making/digital storytelling. The goal of this series was to give all participants, each of whom has varying levels of experience with digital storytelling, the chance to go through the process of planning, producing, and then publishing a video of their choosing. This workshop series was facilitated by three outstanding creative consultants from the Apple Store-University Ave location in Palo Alto, California. This coming Thursday, December 10th, from 5:30-6:30 at the Apple Store in Palo Alto, the film makers who participated in this session will be sharing their finished pieces. If you are in the area, please stop by the Apple Store and join us for this event.

My video that I'll be sharing is embedded below. It is from our trip last spring to Yosemite National Park.

Yosemite 2009 from Matt Montagne on Vimeo.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Authentic Audience & Students as Publishers

Colleague and US History teacher extraordinaire, Heather Pang, recently emailed a link to our school's academic council from a blog post by the Innovative Educator. The post is titled, "21st Century Educators don't say, "Hand it in." They say, "Publish it." This is a wonderful post on the value of students as content creators and publishers. I responded to Heather's email and the academic council with the copy below and decided it might be relevant to re-publish this email in this space.

Hop on over to the Innovative Educator's blog to leave comments and engage in the conversation centering around the topic of student publishing...

My email to Heather and our school's Academic Council: 

Thanks for sharing this article, Heather. I found it to be an interesting read. Audience is something that has long been discussed as an important element of learning design-long before the Internet came around.

Whether it is a group of students presenting to the global peacedot community, AP English students sharing their mixed media essays for a wide range of folks, student athletes performing in a game, sixth graders publishing their math thinking for others to evaluate, theater students putting on a production for the community, photography students publishing their work in an authentic space, or 8th graders in wellness reflecting on the eight elements of wellness (listen to Mandi's piece if you get the chance), audience certainly has a powerful influence."

Good stuff and again, thank you for sharing this piece.

*photo courtesy of Tatooed JJ on flickr (Creative Commons license)

Monday, November 30, 2009

Download Scratch!!!!

Boston Scratch MeetupImage by andresmh via Flickr
This is an email that I sent to a parent from my school here in the Bay Area. She is an educator at a nearby school and was looking for ideas on how to engage a particularly gifted 5th grade student. I immediately thought of Scratch and mentioned that I would follow up our hallway conversation with a few links and resources. So here is that email re-published in this space:


Scratch is a programming (eg-computer science) platform developed by the good folks at MIT. They make it FREELY available for anyone to download, install and use. The thing that makes Scratch powerful is the online community. Students may submit projects to the community for others to comment on and improve upon. Alternately, students may download existing projects and review the source code and remix the source code. It is social constructivist learning at its best!

Here is the information on Scratch:

-Website Address: http://scratch.mit.edu
-Download from http://scratch.mit.edu/download

A few samples from my students in the past (this was an ungraded class...the students loved this stuff and engaged just for the fun of it):
Music Animation: http://scratch.mit.edu/projects/scratchbegginer911/133476 (I love this project...so much effort went into it)
Mario Experiment: http://scratch.mit.edu/projects/scratchbegginer911/122309 (he didn't get too far on this, but he put tons of work into it)
EtchaSketcha: http://scratch.mit.edu/projects/badgerfootball49/159376
Pong: http://scratch.mit.edu/projects/badgerfootball49/109197
Plans and Tanks: http://scratch.mit.edu/projects/badgerfootball49/138625
My Scratch Profile Site: http://scratch.mit.edu/users/mjmontagne

Guides on scratch: http://info.scratch.mit.edu/About_Scratch (scroll down and you'll see the guides...these might be useful print outs to get him started)

Support Materials, like videos, printable help cards, etc: http://info.scratch.mit.edu/Support (my strategy was to show the students videos and to set them off as soon as possible...they knew WAY more than I by the end of this class, which was fantastic).
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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Digital Down Low 2009 Holiday Gift Suggestions

Snowflake Gift Wrap
This post contains a few suggestions for holiday gift ideas for teens (I'm trying to include some different ideas beyond iPods, gaming consoles, computer games, etc). You'll see that I don't reference any software at all - instead of purchasing software, I would advise that you consider making use of the many equally powerful, but free, open source options. Software can now be the most expensive portion of a computer purchase-so why not save your money for the cool items below?  Click here to view a listing of the many free and open source software titles that are available for Mac, Windows and Linux.

2009 Digital Down Low Educational Technology Gift Giving Suggesions for Teens: 
Livescribe Pen - This is a powerful, relatively low cost tool that may be quite useful for many students. The pen syncs audio with written notes that may be reviewed on a computer. The audio enhanced notes may also be shared at the Livescribe online community. We've been experimenting with the Livescribe Pen at Castilleja and I wrote about my initial thoughts back in October. Works with both Mac and Windows. Amazon offers the 4 GB pen for $186.

Flip Video Camcorder - I'm a fan of the Flip Ultra HD model, which records up to two hours of high definition video. This particular model comes with a rechargeable battery pack, but it also operates on two AA batteries as well. The ultra HD lists at $199 at the Flip site, but may be purchased online at Amazon for $152. The Sanyo Xacti HD camcorder is another similarly priced option.

Kindle or Nook eReader- I understand that the Nook from Barnes and Noble will not be shipping until early January, but it does have some tantalizing features. The one that I'm quite intrigued by is the ability to share books with friends (this is cool and mimics one of my favorite things about reading, which is lending out books with friends). I like the Kindle experience as well, but I'm disappointed in their highly locked down, proprietary book model. Kindle does have PC and iPhone apps which allow reading of purchased books on other devices, but I still find the Kindle to be a bit too closed.  I wrote about reading a book on my iPhone kindle app in December of 2008.

Netbook Computer - There are so many options to choose from in the netbook category. Enough, in fact, to make you dizzy. The HP 311 with an 11.6" screen and a six cell battery is definitely one to consider. With the six cell battery this laptop should be able to make it through an entire school day on a single charge. At 11.6", the screen size is a bit larger than the typical 10.1" screen on most netbooks these days. This particular configuration at Amazon features Windows 7, 2 Gigs of RAM, and a 250 GB hard disk for $480. While I like the HP stuff, I'm equally impressed by the Acer Aspire series and the Asus netbooks. Whatever your choice might be, consider upgrading to a six cell battery and 2 GB of RAM if possible.

Apple Macbook Laptop Computer - you can't go wrong with an Apple laptop.

Integrated USB Headset and Mic from Logitech - Great for skype calls, audio recording, etc.

Eye-Fi Geo SD Camera Storage Card - This card is designed to geotag your photos as you shoot them (ie-data regarding the specific location of each photo is added to the photo properties). It also supports wireless uploading of photos from your camera to your computer. It appears that this device works with both Mac and Windows, but I'm not totally certain. I have no personal experience with this product, but if it does everything as advertised, I'm eager to try it out. Check to make certain that your camera is compatible prior to purchasing.
Sony UX71 MP3 Voice Recorder - This is a great little recording tool. I'm a big fan of the fact that it records in the mp3 format. It also has an integrated USB port, which makes it really easy to transfer files to your computer. This is available at Amazon for less than $80.
A Flickr Pro Account - for $25 annually, this gives your teen unlimited photo storage at one of the best online photo storage spaces on the Internet. I love all the special interest groups that you can join to share your photos with as well. Picassa Web is another great service and offers 80 GB of storage for $20 annually.

What am I missing here? Please offer any other suggestions in the form of a comment.
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Friday, November 20, 2009

Our School's Educational Voicethread Network

My school recently created an educational Voicethread account for 250 users. Every time I use this platform with students I'm reminded of the power and potential of this space. The potential for collaboration, reflection, global connection, and knowledge building is HUGE with Voicethread.

Below is the copy of the email that I just sent out to our faculty about our network. I'm cross posting here in the event that this may be of use to anyone else who stumbles across this blog.

Dear Voicethread Fans,

We recently created an educational voicethread network for Casti. We're currently using this with a few students in 6th and 9th grade french classes. Voicethread is an effective platform for learning reflections, global connections, and student knowledge remixing. It also happens to be an incredibly easy application to use (yesterday we had the 6th graders up and running with their new accounts in French class after about 15 minutes).

If you are interested in creating learning design that utilizes this new space, please let me know.

See the links below for a few examples of how students and teachers are using voicethread in the classroom:

Wellness Wheel reflections

Trading cards that examine the role of various historical figures.

Book talks

Language learning - digital stories using newly acquired vocabulary

Math reviewcasts

Artist reflections

Global collaborative projects centering around a certain theme (in this case, the theme is "Earth Day")

Collaborative problem solving in math

Scientific Explanations - a teacher and a few of his students explain a few scientific principles from their grade 8 science class.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day Thoughts

It is hard to believe that it has been nearly two years since Sheila Adams, Karen Olmstead, and Sonja Gonzalez and I facilitated a live webcast with Paul Goodyear, who was on the USS Oklahoma on December 7th, 1941 in Pearl Harbor. It was incredible having a live conversation with Paul - he has an incredible spirit and this was an experience I will never forget. The recorded audio is archived over at the Webcast Academy where the four of us learned the art of live web broadcasting. If you get the chance, listen to the conversation.

I would like to thank Paul and all of the men and women who have served the USA in our armed forces.

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Counterpoint Monthy Article on Twitter

Mideast Iran Presidential Elections
The students at my school recently asked me to write an article on the difference between twitter and facebook for their monthly publication known as "Counterpoint Monthly." They are still working solely in the print world, so I'm reposting here so students and anyone else may leave comments.

Quiz - what do Iranian citizen journalists and famous people like Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mr. Taffee and Paris Hilton all have in common? Answer - they all use Twitter, one of the fastest growing social networks on the Internet. I was asked by the CP Monthly Team to write an article on the differences between two of the most popular social networks right now, Twitter and Facebook. This is an often discussed topic in the blogosphere with a host of well written blog posts that address the main similarities and differences. Danah Boyd, who is a social media researcher for Microsoft, recently wrote a stellar post over at her blog that addresses this question. You may access Dr. Boyd's piece at http://bit.ly/1185Pd. Given Boyd's excellent article and the fact that many of you are already avid Facebook users, I thought I would focus my 600 words on Twitter. I certainly don't intend for this to be a sales pitch on why you should use Twitter because it isn't without fault and it isn't for everyone. Instead, I'd like to simply share a few stories of how Twitter has been used by people around the world and how I use it to connect with others who share my passions and interests.

Out of the box, Twitter might seem like it is nothing more than a platform for blabbering about our mundane daily occurrences. While I've seen some of this in my experience over the past two years using Twitter, I've also witnessed some incredibly powerful stories of collaboration, sharing and creativity. For example, Southern California residents used the platform earlier this fall to share information about the Loma wildfires. Consider what happened this past June with the reporting of the protests following Iran's hotly contested election. The government of Iran effectively shut down all modern media outlets and journalists. The traditional way of reporting the news was completely closed. Iranian citizens, however, armed with Twitter, mobile phones, extraordinary willpower and creativity, Tweeted the news of their struggle.  In a show of solidarity and as a means to confuse the government, people outside of Iran turned their profile pictures to the color of the opposition party (green) and changed their location to Tehran, Iran. As the government blocked Twitter access inside of the country, people inside and outside of Iran worked together to create proxy sites that circumvented the governmental filtering. The government eventually blocked these proxies, but new ones were built and shared so that the news reporting would continue via Twitter. The US State Department even asked Twitter to delay a planned network maintenance outage so that the citizen journalists inside of Iran could continue their work without interruption. This was an incredible story of global collaboration! It is hard to believe that all of this was facilitated by a small little company from San Francisco that built a software platform around the single simple question of, "What are you doing right now?"

Who do I connect with on Twitter? I primarily use Twitter as a way to collaborate and share with other teachers around the world who are interested in the intersection of technology and learning. We share links to interesting blog posts and ideas about clever teaching ideas. The concept of the the Gator Radio Experience project here at Castilleja is the direct result of my Twitter interactions with other educators. Many of these educators know a great deal more than I about the world of live Internet webcasting and were incredibly helpful in helping us launch this project. I also follow university professors, a few authors, individuals and organizations with a green slant, and of course the University of Wisconsin - Madison's mascot, Bucky Badger!

Before creating a Twitter account or an account on any other social media platform, please talk things over with your parents. I highly recommend that you have a conversation with your parents in which you agree upon acceptable and unacceptable uses of social networks. While these tools may be used in incredibly productive and meaningful ways, they certainly can come back to create problems for us in the future. Also, please know that Twitter and all other social networking sites have a minimum age requirement in their terms of service. This minimum age tends to be 13 years old and should be respected. Finally, remember the Golden Rule as you work, share and collaborate in these powerful online communities.

If you'd like to leave comments about this story or if you'd like to see additional resources and information about Twitter, visit my professional blog at http://bit.ly/mjmontagne.

Twitter Streams of Interest:
PeaceDot Project: http://twitter.com/peacedot
Gator Radio Experience: http://twitter.com/gator_radio
Bucky Badger: http://twitter.com/buckybadger
Mr. Montagne's Twitter Stream: http://twitter.com/mjmontagne
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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Gator Radio Experience Turns 1!

October 29th will mark the one year anniversary of our first live broadcast when our high school student webcasters were joined by colleague and friend, Doug Symington, to talk about political topics in the context of the 2008 US presidential election (our first show with Doug is archived and posted online here). Many of you know that I am a school technology coordinator and that one of the projects I've been involved in is helping our students to create their own live, student operated Internet radio station known as the Gator Radio Experience.

While Year One of this project was quite exciting and ground breaking for everyone involved, year two is turning out to be an excellent growth opportunity in its own right. We now have veteran students from the first year of the project mentoring our project newcomers. They are teaching each other how to work a back channel to keep the show flowing. The webcasters mentor each other on strategies to use during technical glitches and they continue to be supportive of one other during situations of failure and success (the way they encourage each other in the back channel is a wonderful to see!) They help each other out with their delivery by reminding everyone to keep a slow to moderate pace of speech. This apprenticeship model of youth teaching youth continues on November 3rd when we are joined live by the four Gator Radio Experience alumnae who are now freshman in college. We look forward to their return to the mic to share with us and contribute once again to the GRE!

Our youth webcasters have talked to people of all ages from around the globe. While I don't have any hard data to support my hypothesis, I can't help but think that our students have developed their soft skills and cultural intelligence in meaningful ways. I know for certain that they are improving in their ability to ask relevant follow up questions of our show guests (this is an incredibly difficult skill, especially so in the medium that we use).

Like Jeff Lebow of Worldbridges says, I hope there are thousands of other Gator Radio Experience live youth webcasting projects out there in the very near future. Imagine a network of youth Internet radio stations from around the world that links up to play music together or share their thoughts on the latest global political, environmental and cultural issues.

I would be remiss to finish this post without thanking a host of innovative and creative individuals who have supported this project in many different ways (including joining us live for many of our broadcasts). I won't mention names because there are too many folks who have helped us out, so instead I'll send a virtual THANK YOU to the entire Worldbridges community and sub-communities for their support of this project. Your kind words of encouragement and assistance with this project have been great. I also want to send out a big thanks to all students, teachers, administrators, and parents at my school who have supported this project in multiple different ways.

So let's celebrate a fantastic first year of this project and please join me in wishing the Gator Radio Experience a Happy Birthday!

A few things that you can do to help the GRE celebrate our birthday:

1. Join our GRE Fan Page at Facebook
2. Subscribe to our blog via email or RSS
3. Follow us on Twitter
4. Help us find guests around the globe that would be willing to have a conversation with us about the things they are interested in and passionate about.

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Stanford Center for Innovations in Learning - Site Visit

On Thursday, October 8th, a team for faculty, students, administrators and board members visited the Stanford Center for Innovations in Learning over on Stanford University's Campus. Our goal was to observe the advanced learning spaces that the folks from the SCIL built in Stanford's Wallenberg Hall. The teaching and learning spaces at Wallenbergy support a wide range of instructional methods from a very teacher-centric, instructivist approach to a more student-centric constructivist, collaborative learning approach. The spaces and furniture are both very flexible, which allows for a wide range of learning experiences to be carried out in these areas.

We would like to thank Dr. Helen Chen and Bob Smith of Wallenberg Hall and the Stanford Center for Innovations in Learning for taking out the time to spend the entire afternoon with our team two weeks ago. 

Here are a few of my thoughts and reflections from our team's visit to Wallenberg:
  • The technology and tools that were most compelling to me had nothing to do with digital resources. The moveable furniture and the huddleboards stood out to me as the most interesting technologies at the SCIL. The furniture and and huddleboards are manufactured by Steelcase. Listen to many of the Stanford instructor video comments at this link. Scroll to the bottom and hear what Tina Seelig says about the instructional spaces.
  • A few of the rooms featured glass walls on one or two sides. The glass in these areas is used as a writing surface by students and teachers. Quite clever.
  • A couple of the rooms had sliding glass walls that allowed the room to open up into the hallway corridor-these glass walls were opaque and I noticed that these are being used as white boards as well.
  • The rolling tables are also foldable so that they may be tucked away to the side of the room for people to sit on the floor, stand around a white board, etc. I believe the tables featured at this portion of the Steelcase website are the ones that we saw. A variety of surfaces may be ordered for this table, including one that writable with whiteboard markers. Ballpark cost on the tables is around $1200 USD ea.
  • Here is a link to the Steelcase page on Huddleboards. If I could purchase only one thing from the SCIL for use here at my school (including any digital presentation tools), this would be the tool that I would buy. These boards may be hung on a board, set on a floor or table, etc. They are highly flexible team collaboration tools. They allow for writing on either side of the board as well.
  • Steelcase Cachet Chairs - SCIL paid less than $300 per chair seven years ago and they are still in excellent shape. My guess is that they'll be able to last another 7-8 years. Compare this with the typical lab chair that we pay $125 for in schools...these chairs tend to age fairly quickly and aren't nearly as comfortable as the Cachet Chairs.
  • The commons areas featured booths with noise dampening panels. The booths are moveable so they may be positioned by a white board or anywhere else in the commons areas.
  • It would be awesome to purchase a some of this furniture from Steelcase and try it in an area of our library or a lab space that becomes free of computers when we move to a laptop learning model. We could also put some huddleboards in the room as well...this would allow us, for very little cost, to construct and develop a model classroom for interested teachers and students to try out.
Short little video with some photos and clips from our visit:

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Livescribe Pen Playing the Piano!

One of our students was in The Office yesterday and she just grabbed our Livescribe Pen and began experimenting with it. Here is a short little video of what she did with the pen:

The Nueva School's "Gifted Learning Conference...Education for the 21st Century" - Reflections

I had the good fortune to attend this one-of-a-kind learning conference at the Nueva School in Hillsborough, California, on Friday, October 16th. This was a two day conference and my school sent several middle school teachers to attend sessions on Friday. By many miles, this was one of the best learning conferences that I've had the opportunity to attend. It was an incredibly busy and packed schedule which I appreciated. The first session started at 8:30 am and I went solid until John Seely Brown's session ended at 5:00 pm. The social and reception after JSB's session turned out to be wonderful opportunity to reflect with colleagues and even a Castilleja school parent, and also to chat with some of the presenters. Click here to view a few pictures from my experience.

Neeru Khosla : Textbooks 2.0: Textbooks to Flexbooks
Neeru is the founder of the CK-12 Foundation, which is dedicated to providing high quality, no cost textbooks to schools. I happened upon this organization last fall after I found out that one of our students, Megan Conn, interned with them during the summer of 2008 (see Megan's article about wikipedia and her intern experience online here ). Since I learned about CK12 I've been seeing it referenced in the various online communities that I participate in...it was just fascinating to hear Neeru present the vision of CK-12 and the Flexbook project. Flexbooks are essentially digital textbooks that have been seeded with content by content area experts. They go a long way in addressing the major weaknesses of traditional texts (eg-weight, expense, dated information, a one size fits all user experience, etc). Flexbook texts goes through an extensive 4 month peer review process before the content gets "locked." Any teacher may then login to the CK-12 site and either use the material in its existing state or mashup various components and parts from the range of texts to form her own text. She may even incorporate information of her own by using the built-in, WISWYG editing tool that is incorporated into the system. As you might expect with a name like "Flexbooks," they are extremely flexible and allow teachers and students to access the content in a variety of ways including online via a web browser, PDF download, and various eReaders. They are in the process of developing software that supports online note taking/annotation and the content will also be directly useable in various learning management systems like moodle (it is useable in Moodle now as a pdf, but I believe the future will bring tighter integration).

All Flexbooks are released under a Creative Commons Share Alike license, which means the spirit of collaboration and sharing is a cornerstone of this project. I think there is so much potential with the CK-12 foundation's open source Flexbooks and I'm excited about the possibility of having our school community members, including our students, contribute in some way in the future (CK-12 foundation is in Palo Alto, which means they are basically a neighbor of ours).

David Levy : No Time to Think
The opening line in the program description of this session is,
Thanks to the proliferation of information technologies, there is less time to think-and to relate to others and to the world-than ever before.
Due to this description, I started out by thinking this was going to be a bash session on all things social media, Web 2.0 and the Internet. I turned out not to be neither an indictment nor an endorsement of the potential of networked learning and participatory media technologies. David Levy is an technology philosopher from the University of Washington and I appreciated his balanced look at why we no longer have "No Time to Think" in the "More, Faster, Better" culture that most of us subscribe to in the US. He couched this talk in terms of a historical industrial age thinking that we have yet to grow out of...we still largely have systems that reward efficient and speedy output.

I agree with David's thesis...I've long believed that the best way to develop our social-emotional intelligence and knowledge of how things work is through a wide range of play with others in multiple different contexts. We leave very little time for play, exploration, discovery and tinkering in our culture as it stands now...how change this and bring back a sense of play into our schools and society?

David referenced many resources during his talk, but these were the two that stand out from my notes:
Linda Burch and Matt Levinson : Education Kids and School Communities in a 24/7 Digital World: Safe, Savvy, and Respectful
Linda Burch is from Common Sense Media and Matt Levinson is an administrator from Nueva School. Matt started the presentation by talking about some of the problems that his school community experienced in the first few months of their laptop learning program last year. The school didn't anticipate that there would be such a large number of complaints from families about laptop use in their home. I was impressed with Matt and his school community's response to focus their efforts on community education of all stakeholders, including parents, teachers and students. They very easily could've looked to easy technology solutions like the installation of software filters on student laptops instead of the more powerful and meaningful work of community education. Matt's anecdote about some of their early challenges is something that I'll bring back to the Castilleja Community immediately as we prepare for our own laptop learning model. Matt then passed the wheel over to Linda who talked about the digital citizenship curriculum that Common Sense media has built-while I find the curriculum to be enticing because it isn't fear based, I do worry about any such curriculum being used as a crutch and panacea for teaching youth to be effective users of digital tools and resources. We can have the best curriculum in the world in this area, but if students see adults (teachers and parents alike) talking/texting on the cell phone while they are driving and misusing social media, then the education component really doesn't matter. Modeling innovative, creative and effective use of digital tools has to be something that all adults begin to take more seriously if we are going to expect our youth to do the same.

Lunch Panel Discussion: Trends in 21st Century Education Panel with John Seely Brown, Neeru Khosla, Robert SternbergYves Behar, moderated by KR Sridhar 
Several lunch time panels were offered on Friday and I wasn't disappointed by my decision to attend this session. Robert Sternberg called for new assessments to change teaching, JSB talked about the importance of  EQ and CQ (emotional intelligence and communication intelligence), Yves Behar touched upon the importance of the unique contributions of various members of a collaborative team, and Neeru Khosla talked about the exciting potential of customized and personalized learning. It was a fascinating lunch time panel and I even had the opportunity to sit in the audience next to Carol Dweck!

David Kelley and Kim Saxe : Hands-on Design Thinking Workshop (Two-hour workshop)
This two hour workshop took place in one of the coolest learning spaces that I've seen in a school. Click here to see some of the pictures from the shop that Nueva has built to integrate design and design thinking into their school culture. We went through the entire design process that Nueva uses with students...what was interesting was to find out that Nueva rarely has students design something for themselves. They typically design for others which helps develop empathy and a design mindset that moves beyond personal interests-David told a story during our reflection period about a time early in his career when he designed a new toothpaste dispenser for Crest. The folks from Crest asked about the design and he said something to the effect of, "I really like it." Crest responded that they didn't really care if he liked the design, but was more interested in whether or not millions of people would like it. This was an ah-hah moment for David in his career and I'm glad he shared it because it really highlighted that the design process is partly about developing empathy as a way to understand the needs of others.

John Seely Brown : Learning through Tinkering

What a way to round out this most excellent day of learning. I'll drop in a few of my Twitter posts from this session as a way to summarize my highlights from JSB's talk. My Tweets are italicized while my added any follow up thoughts that I have are standard formatted

According to John seeley brown "Virtual study groups are just as effective as face to face learning." See me note at the end regarding this face to face version of JSB's talk and the webcast version from a few weeks ago. The questioning going on in the virtual session was much richer and more meaningful than that which took place in the face to face session. This isn't a negative slant on face to face at all, but merely a suggestion that each medium has strengths and weaknesses.

Dewey would be ecstatic with open source software development methodologies. JSB described how open source software development is rooted in Deweyism...community software development is all about sharing, collaboration and the social construction of knowledge. Contrast this, JSB says, with his computer science program which was all about proving that you are the smartest coder by making your code complicated and difficult to follow.

The Internet has given rise to the pro-amateur class . Told great story about networked astronomers.  This is indeed quite true. We see this playing out in many different forms, with regular people being able to do things that simply wasn't possible prior to the Internet. Amateurs can run their own radio shows, blogs/journals, podcasts, music channels at Myspace, etc.

"...we need to be able to regrind our conceptual lenses..." in the 21st c. --- -John seeley brown Unlearning, learning, changing and retooling on a regular basis is a must in an environment of increasing change. JSB also said that if people feel as though they need to go back to school for training and learning we will have lost the game...I agree.

The new version of the golden triangle: inspiration, intuition, imagination. All surrounded by a sense of awe

Eq and Cq more important than IQ (social/emotional intelligence and communication intelligence). JSB Couldn't agree more...while raw brain power is helpful, the ability to interact and communicate with a wide range of people is exceedingly critical. 

JSB just talked about the value of ePortfolio learning. Nice to receive that validation from JSB. JSB told the story of how he used to observe and architecture class and the participants were always sharing their work by pinning it up on the walls in the classroom for others to see and interact with. Periodically the instructor would provide feedback on a draft and this would serve as a learning opportunity for everyone in the class because each member was so closely linked to one another in the learning process. JSB then went on to talk about the value of creating our own personal dashboards or ePortfolio mashups to better understand what everyone in the community is learning.

JSB's talk was essentially a repeat presentation of a webcast he did a few weeks back with Steve Hargadon on the "Future of Education." Click here to listen to Steve's conversation with JSB. While it was a conference highlight of mine to see JSB speak in person, I have to say that the audience Q and A and overall participation was much deeper and richer in the virtual session conducted via Elluminate. Measuring the difference in audience engagement and brain activity between the webcast format and the live, face to face format would make for a truly interesting study. Judging by the level of questioning and participating amongst session participants, I would surmise that there was greater brain activity in the Elluminate session...but this is only a hunch and awaits scientific study by someone out there!

At the end of the presentation, I asked JSB if the following question, "Schools have all sorts of institutional momentum in place that make it difficult to build a culture of learning through tinkering. With that said, where are the easy opportunities in schools for doing these types of things." JSB's response was after school programs and the "edges" like clubs, extra-curriculars, etc. He talked about working the edges and then over time the edges will actually become the core of what we do in schools.

A few other thoughts:
-An incredibly well run, organized conference by Nueva. Kudos to the Nueva team.
-It was great to see youth from the school involved in all sorts of ways from technical support to greeters and providers of directions.
-I wish I would've attended the Thursday session as well...I'm under the impression that participants observed students engaged in design challenges and the like.
-My wife attended Bob Sternberg's session and said it was outstanding...missing his session may have been my only disappointment of the day. I'm intrigued by the alternative admissions system at Tufts that he is spearheading-essentially they are attempting to quantify creative thinking during the admissions process. Apparently this new admission process is beginning to bring in more student diversity to Tufts.
-The green design of the school is awesome. The school composts, recycles, has several green roofs and a solar PV system. Click here to view a picture of the school's Cafe with a green roof. What a wonderful educational opportunity for Nueva students to learn first hand about the clean tech industry.
-Play is clearly an important part of what Nueva does...this was evident in the 15 or so outdoor play areas that the students have access to on campus. Dewey's dream is clearly alive and well at Nueva.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Livescribe Pen - My Initial Thoughts

LAS VEGAS - JANUARY 10:  The LiveScribe Smart ...Image by Getty Images via Daylife
I like low budget, low tech, simple tools that have a powerful impact on learning. This is why I've become a fan of the Livescribe Pen. I used it to post the handwritten and abbreviated version of this post below.

For some people the Livescribe has the capability to be a wonderful tool for taking notes, recording notes, and recording audio to go along with those notes. I emphasize some, because while I'm excited about how this tool can empower learners, it isn't for everyone. Some people will prefer to record notes on a computer/wireless device of some sort, some people will prefer to use the collaborative notes created in a wiki/shared document, and some people will prefer to write their notes with a pencil/pen and paper. Some will even be interested in all of the above. The fact that the Livescribe syncs up the audio with the animated notes makes it super useful for people who need both visual and auditory reinforcement for some learning situations/contexts.

The Livescribe Pen has many potential applications for use as a supportive learning device. Below are a few examples of how it is currently being used at my school and how it might be used in the future as well:

-One high school student that I'm aware of right now is using it primarily for note taking. A few of her teachers allow her to record audio so that she can review the class with animated notes supported by audio.

-We'll soon be using it as a mathcasting tool for students. I see it being used by students to create scripted mathcasts, but I also see it being used spontaneously in class. Say a student comes up with a new way to think about a problem...the teacher can just say, "Livescribe your thinking," and it can immediately be posted to the community learning space as an object for others to interact with and build upon. Alternately, if a student is really struggling she may "Livescribe her thinking" for others members of the classroom community to weigh in on.

-One of our junior students will be using it to conduct an ethnographic observation and interview of a community member as part of an english class project (click here to see some of these from last year). Last year we had the students use portable microphones for this purpose along with written notes...this may turn out to be a helpful little tool for the project.

I certainly wish the Livescribe pen allowed the line thickness to be modified so that the animated notes were easier to track, but all-in-all, this is a powerful little tool.

Visit the livescribe community at http://www.livescribe.com/community to see the other innovative and creative uses of this supportive/assistive learning tool.


Livescribe note samples (I only included the text...no animation or audio is included...be sure to visit the livescribe community to see examples with audio and animation).

I have to say that the process of handwriting this post with a pen was LABORIOUS to say the least...I forgot how much more efficient it is for me to keyboard in comparison to handwriting. But again, I know this is a personal preference and others will prefer different note taking mediums.

Part I:

Livescribe Post
brought to you by Livescribe

Part II:

Livescribe 2
brought to you by Livescribe

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Google Wave...What is It??

I've been Tweetering and Facebooking about Google Wave since my educator pal Rob Rowe sent me an invitation. So far I really like it...email as we've known it certainly has its flaws and Wave attempts to build an architecture that helps address these weaknesses.

Take the 2 minutes and 15 seconds out of your life to learn more about it through this clever video:

Go Google! Go Wave!

Friday, October 09, 2009

Students Sharing a Google Document with Teachers - A Tip

Google Doc WordleImage by NedraI via Flickr
A few weeks back I was pretty excited because one of our high school language classes used our "new" Linux lab (not really new as the computers are circa 2002, but this is our first year using Ubuntu Linux in a lab)-this was the first time that we had an entire class of students using this space! But I was even more excited about an idea that we stumbled upon. The students were using the lab to do one of their weekly writing samples in their Spanish language class with their teacher, Carolina Morouder. Typically speaking the students used MS Word and then printed their paragraph at the end of class as a way to hand in their work. Because our linux lab is not connected to printers, we had the students start a google document and then quickly share that document with Carolina. As a result of the work being shared with her, there was no need for the students to print. Using google docs, Carolina was able to leave feedback on each student's work. I started to think about what would happen if each time every student in this class shared a google document with Carolina as a way to turn in a writing sample for feedback. Then I started thinking about how Carolina has several classes. This would result in a fair amount of chaos in her google documents space. In order to solve this problem, we decided for the next writing sample that these students would work in the same document that they already shared-this would alleviate the need for the students to share a document once again and it would prevent Carolina's google document workspace from filling up with several short documents from each student. The next time the students work on their writing sample they would open the same document that they already shared, set their cursor in at the top of the document, enter down a few times to create some space (and maybe even insert a horizontal rule), and then start writing at the top of the document. Over time, this document would become chronologically ordered with the most recent writing samples at the top of the document.

Finally, as time goes along, students may organize their single writing sample with a table of contents and the bookmarks feature in google docs (this feature is AWESOME).

I published a sample of what this could look like in a google docment by taking three posts from this blog and pasting them in a google document. I added a table of contents and bookmarks and here is what it looks like.

Just as a side note, I don't believe Carolina has carried on with this method (which is totally OK!) I was happy that she tried this, however, because it lead to a pretty excellent strategy for information organization and management.

Finally, I think this fits in with student ePortfolios so very nicely. Imagine at the end of the semester/school year if the students made a copy of their google doc writing samples in Spanish class, and then selected a handful of items that they wanted to place in their ePortfolio. Great possibilities here!
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Thursday, October 08, 2009

Sixth Grade Mathcast #2

Our second "Mathcast" created by a team of sixth grade students at our school is embedded below. My wife is our new sixth grade teacher and I'm impressed with her willingness to deploy teaching strategies like this (and she also is using a variation of Darren Kuropatwa's student scribe post method).  Our first published mathcast from two weeks ago has over 200 views already on YouTube, proving once again, that the Internet is the most poweful publishing platform that our classrooms have ever seen (if this video was published on a DVD it would be luck to be played 10 times).

This is only the second mathcast and I can't wait to see the clever and creative strategies that the students use in the future for these videos! Kudos to our youth mathcasters!

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Google Apps for Education - Rating Our Transition - The Mistakes

Google Docs Paper AirplaneImage by colin_n via Flickr
So in a previous post I shared what went well with our transition to Google Apps for Education from Firstclass. I would say that we did many, many things well, but we did make some mistakes. In the spirit of openness, transparency, and a hope that someone out there will learn from our mistakes, let me elaborate on where we failed here in this post.

Some data about our transition (may be helpful to compare to your transition for scale):
Number of accounts transitioned from Firstclass to Google: 550
Number of faculty/staff accounts: about 125
Number of student accounts: about 425
Years our school had used Firstclass: I believe around 10

1.  We made promises we couldn't keep - Particularly in the area of Firstclass conference replication and data migration. Firstclass has this tool called "Conferences" that some of our users really liked. Prior to the transition we told people that Google Sites along with mail groups would give them the same functionality. The truth is that Google Sites doesn't do the same exact thing that Firstclass conferences, yet we promised folks that they would. Secondly, we promised that all data would migrate over, including calendars, contacts, and mail. We made a big mistake here. Firstclass is so horribly broken in terms of IMAP and other systems standards that it simply wasn't possible to automatically migrate sub-folder mail content from firstclass with the push of a button. In retrospect we should've tested data migration more thoroughly prior to announcing that mail content would be migrated over from the old system to the new. Don't make promises you can't keep if you are heading in this direction.

2.  DNS Preparation - we were ill prepared with new DNS entries up and ready to go for all of our new services. There were a few times after our cut date where our new mail address wasn't working internally...as a matter of act, it still isn't working, but thanks to Adam Contois we have some hack in place that does a quick re-direct internally.

3. Calendaring confusion - I can't say this is a mistake because we truly didn't anticipate that our entire organizational calendaring system would move over to Google Apps Calendar. Firstclass' calendaring is fairly wretched and we were using FinalSite's calendaring system which we purchased as a part of their web CMS. I don't think anyone who managed our calendars was particularly satisfied with Finalsite as the calendaring solution, so when Google Calendar came around we had some folks who were eager to try it out. Calendaring seems to be a real challenge in most organizations, and when we moved to Google Cal we didn't quite have our arms around how we were going to implement this as our organizational calendaring system. Luckily we had several folks step up (Mid, Dana, Katherine, Shannon) to build an excellent solution for our calendaring needs-they created an entire Google Site in our network that has all of the various calendars that our folks may elect to subscribe to.

We also have had some difficulties with the use of using Google Calendar for scheduling some of our resources like computer labs and rooms. We're still trying to figure this out at the time of this post and if we arrive to a solution I will share it out here.

4. Document Sharing - we didn't expect so many of our folks to use google docs to share information, which is absolutely great! However, many people are using Google Docs instead of sending attachments or placing the message right in the body. This is causing a bit of "Google Doc" fatigue. Google docs are great for collaborative writing, but when it comes to simply passing along information that you'd like people to read, attaching a document or placing the text in the body of the email is completely fine (or simply publishing the doc to a URL and sharing that URL is another good route). I'm going to create a little help document that helps people decide when they might consider sharing a google doc vs. sending a standard attachment. This isn't a huge deal, but some of our folks are experiencing a little Google Docs fatigue.

5. Network mail groups - we have way too many network mail groups. We have nearly 60 or so that we brought over from firstclass. We should've probably thinned this list down to a few dozen or so when we transitioned, but it proved easier said than done. I'd imagine as time progresses we'll only keep the highly useful ones around.

6. Client software for mail access - prior to the transition we talked to our folks about how they could use various mail clients like Mac Mail, Thunderbird, Outlook, etc. It is true that this is possible, but as a school tech department it is difficult to support all these various client software programs. We now have a policy that we only support web access to email...folks are welcome to configure a client, but they are pretty much on their own if they go this route.

7. Mobile support - we should've been clearer about how we were going to support mobile access. Outside of providing links to help documents and video tutorials that show users how to configure their iPhones, Blackberries, etc, we really don't have the bandwidth to support all of these various mobile platforms that are represented in our student, faculty and staff community. Luckily mobile access setup of Google mail is really easy, so we really haven't had to offer a great deal of high touch support for mobiles.

8. Under-estimation of support during for the transition - While we did have a transition support team of 8 faculty and staff or so, looking back it would've been best had we doubled that number with an appointed transition expert in each department. I'm a big believer in empowering community members to help each other out and our transition team went part of the way in making this happen.

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