Wednesday, September 30, 2009

ePortfolio Talk with Grade 9 Learners

Last week I wrote a quick post about the inroads we are making at my school in terms of ePortfolio learning (truthfully, the progress is very limited, but hey, it is a start). Prior to having the students begin the process of building up their portfolios I had a little conversation with them about about the basics of portfolio learning. I recorded and posted a variation of this talk and I embedded it below.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Danah Boyd on "Teens and Social Networks"

Dr. Danah Boyd, who is an expert in the area of youth and online social networking spaces, spoke yesterday with Steve Hargadon from Classroom 2.0/Future of Education. The MP3 audio recording is included below and I highly recommend you take the time to listen to it.

Dr. Boyd's dissertation "Taken Out of Context: American Teen Sociality in Networked Publics" focused on how American youth use networked publics for sociable purposes. It is important that all teachers, parents and administrators have the right information about what people (youth and adults alike) are doing with networked spaces.

As a related note, here is a link to my policy regarding forming connections with people (youth and adults alike) in online spaces. I wrote this as a way to provide some transparency about my online connections.

Audio Recording from Danah Boyd's Talk with Steve Hargadon:

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Portfolio Learning...its Happening!

Lake Louise MorningImage by swisscan via Flickr
I'm so pleased to report out that we are making some progress with portfolio learning at my school here in Palo Alto, California. Today I worked with some of the 9th grade students to introduce them to the concept of portfolio learning-see the google slide deck below. This slide deck was used to guide the conversation with the students today (I will make a recording of this and post the audio along with my slides in a future blog post here).

We know that the stories of our unique learning journeys cannot be boiled down to a letter grade. It is impossible to reduce our passion, interests and achievement to a set of numbers, symbols and letters. Back in my pre-service days at the University of Wisconsin - Madison we explored the potential of portfolios as a way to capture authentic student learning and achievement-but that was pre-internet and we only had analogue systems to track and manage the learner portfolios. We now have simple, easy to use systems in place for everyone to keep her own eportfolio that may be used across subjects, extra-curricular experiences, and academic years. Eportfolios have the potential for a learner to effectively tell her learning story and to make meaning of her learning in a way that works best for her.

I think this is going to turn into something really cool here at our school-I can't wait!

For more information on portfolios, visit Dr. Helen Barrett's site (she is the Queen Bee of portfolio learning).
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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Our First Student Mathcast!

I'm excited about the potential of students creating simple, short videos where they explain and teach concepts that they are exploring. I've always believed that the best way to learn something is to teach it and that we should use instructional design that puts students in the role of the teacher as much as possible. This is our very first screencast created by our sixth grade students and we think it will provide a nice launching base for other mathcasts in the future. This video is posted over YouTube and it is also posted at the class wiki, which is currently is only visible to the sixth grade students. A few students have already commented on the video-this is where things will get interesting as the students engage in collaborative knowledge building to help with their understanding.

A special thank you is in order to Eric Marcos and his sixth grade mathcasters at MathTrain.TV for their pioneering work in this area. We shared some of Mr. Macos' student mathcasts with our students to help inspire their thinking.

On the tech side, the three students authored their slides in the google docs presentation tool and we recorded and edited their 'cast using Screenflow.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Yammer - an experiment in organizational micro-blogging

Image representing Yammer as depicted in Crunc...Image via CrunchBase
I've heard quite a bit about Yammer over the past few months and truthfully, I didn't think a walled garden space for micro-blogging made sense. After all, isn't the potential upside of sharing in a open spaces like Twitter so much greater due to a much larger audience and network? After reading a Techcrunch post a few weeks back I decided to give Yammer a shot and I have to say that I'm glad I did. While we don't have and overwhelming amount of traffic and users from our school in the space, it certainly does have the potential to be a wonderful way to share links, resources, classroom doings, questions for discussion, etc.

What is Yammer and why might it be useful?
Yammer is essentially a private mircoblogging platform for organizations. Posts are not limited to 140 characters like in Twitter and may include text, images, links, etc. Yammer offers a decent desktop client and the iPhone App is pretty decent (soon the iPhone app will include photo sharing from the iPhone camera, which will make a great on-the-fly classroom sharing tool). Groups inside of the network may be created and Yammer supports threaded conversation, which is something that Twitter does not offer. In comparison to email, I believe it has the potential to be a much more effective space to share information across traditional organizational boundaries. For years I've found email to be too linear and one dimensional and I think many folks share my thinking. In email I've found that many folks typically do not share with the entire organization, but instead only with their department or mail group. As we consider multi-disciplinary learning opportunities in our schools, we're going to have to look at using communication systems that move us away from 'island' communication. After all, there is a very good chance that the math link or teaching idea that a math teachers shares with other members of her department department could have relevance to a much broader audience that even includes students.

My experience in setting up the network for our organization:
The first step involved my going over to Yammer and creating my account. I had to so with my Castilleja email address as the registration system is dependent upon email verification. Once I verified that I indeed owned that email address, I was in the network and Yammering. After getting into the space I invited a few of my colleagues in the tech department and a couple of faculty members. Initially traffic was pretty light, but eventually  invited some other colleauges who invited others, etc. After about a week or so I posted a notice to our faculty & staff distribution list and I eventually sent an invitation to a few students who work on our radio show project and also to my advisees.

Our Progress in Yammer:
We currently have nearly 30 faculty, staff and students in the network and my guess is that we average around 5 posts a day. This isn't very many posts, but in comparison to the kinds of email posts we see going to our faculty & staff distribution list, it has potential to be an excellent platform to discuss teaching and learning. The vast majority of emails to our faculty/staff distribution lists are operational in nature while the 5-10 daily posts at Yammer have some relevance to learning. I'm not convinced entirely that Yammer will work for us, but it certainly should be an interesting experiment.

If cross departmental, multi-constituent (eg-teachers, students, staff, administration), and open sharing regarding teaching and learning isn't happening in your school's email system, then where is it happening??

I'm including a few of our recent Yammer posts so you have an idea of what some of our folks are sharing (I won't reveal the identities of those posting)...while these posts aren't earth shattering, I'm convinced that this type of sharing is really important. After all, the ideas of an organization's employees are quite possibly its most valuable asset.

"the library has obtained a KINDLE for the casti community to experiment with. loading new content. any requests?"

"Kristin sent me a link to a great blog, Letters of Note which posts interesting and historical letters (with transcripts)."

From "Red Scarf Girl" to WorldBook Online, check out English 6 students engaged in a lesson:

"Just watched the ISS and Discovery pass overhead, and so can you! Palo Alto viewing times for the next few days can be found here:   On Tuesday and Wednesday the space shuttle Discovery will appear a few minutes ahead of the ISS, along the same path. Lower magnitudes are brighter, so Tuesday evening's pass should be quite bright, even though the sky won't be fully dark yet."

"i am trying to cultivate a habit of searching youtube for interviews with Latin American authors and other juicy tidbits for my classes."

"I just watched Dan Pink talk on TED. Great recommendation Matt. Great talk and quite appropriate for our mindsets discussion. TED never fail to amaze me. Make sure to check it out at TED.Com"

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Did You Know 4.0

The original "Did You Know" video created by Karl Fisch and Scott McCloud was recently re-published as version 4.0 and is embedded below. This is bound to be an excellent conversation starter regarding the need to re-think the traditional model of school given the information abundant environment that we are now immersed in.

Pop over to Scott's blog, Dangerously Irrelevant, to read comments and engage in the conversation.

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Saturday, September 05, 2009

Parent Education Opportunity: Wednesday, September 9th at 5:00 pm Pacific

This live Internet broadcast on Wednesday, September 9th, 2009 looks like an excellent educational opportunity for parents, teachers and administrators. Jane Nelsen will be speaking on the topic of parenting in an age of the Internet and social networking. Participating in this event is super easy and only requires a computer connected to the Internet. Please spread the word and pass this link out to as many people as possible.

For more information on this event and for details on how to participate live, click here to visit the event info page at
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Our "New" Linux Lab

Linux is for human beings...
I'm proud to work in a school tech department that is so focused on environmentally responsible computer practices and policies (I might also add that our department is one of the "greenest" in the school, with 3 of the 4 department members commuting by bike each day to work). This is in large part due to the vision and leadership of our school's Tech Director, Steve Taffee. We're certainly not perfect in all areas as a department and there is room for improvement, but in many respects I think our school is at the forefront of the "Green Computing" movement. This is especially evident with our "New" Linux lab that Steve and Adam Contois (Help Desk/Sys Engineer) deployed this past summer. I write "New" in quotations because the lab itself is new, but the computers in the lab are actually circa 2002 IBM desktop computers with old LCD displays and reused keyboards and mice. These old IBM computers were replaced last year in our language learning lab by new HP desktops. When we made the decision last spring to relocate our 17" iMac computers from our iMac lab to a newly created "Digital Arts Studio" in our fine arts center, instead of purchasing brand new replacement computers we decided to re-use the old IBMs to fill the void (I might also add that this move saved our school a significant sum of $$$). The computers feature a pretty standard installation of Ubuntu Linux, which includes Open Office and a folder of games. I'm amazed at boot times, application loading speed, and the all around solid performance of computers that TCO models are telling us to put out to pasture.

Initial student reaction to the computers in this space is typically, "These are ugly." But when they consider the environmental impact and when they actually use the computers, the students really seem to appreciate and enjoy this resource. Quite honestly, after 10 minutes of web browsing and working in our new web-based email system (Google Apps), the students seem to completely forget that they are using a different operating system. We had a full class of 17 students in the lab for the first time this past week and the performance was quite solid, especially considering each student was authoring in Google Docs, a web based word processing environment.

On Tuesday of this past week we had our first "Linux Lab Open House." We invited students, teachers, staff and administrators to come take a look at the Linux desktop operating system in action. We only had a few people attend, but it proved to be a very nice introduction to Linux as an operating system. See the video clip below from Tuesday's open house. We're hoping to have a second open house at some point in October and we're going to try to invite parents as well. We're even considering doing a "Make-it-take-it" type of day where students/families can bring in their old computers and we'll help them load Ubuntu Linux.

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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

MadV is back on YouTube with One World-HD!

I posted about MadV's original "One World" project as part of a larger stream of thinking on the topic of the Internet as a platform for peace, better cultural understanding, etc. I was visiting YouTube today when I noticed that MadV is remixing is "One World" project 2 years later, but this time in high definition. I'm eager to participate and I'm hopeful that some other members of our school community will consider doing so as well. How about you??