Saturday, December 27, 2008

Upon Reviewing Partnership for 21st Century Learning

The Partnership for 21st Century Learning has created this radiant rainbow to help give structure and relationship to the future of education. I was impressed by the notion that the core subjects included 21st Century themes (global awareness, civil literacy, health literacy, and financial, economic, business and entrepreneurial literacy). I foresee that in my English/language arts classroom Global Awareness is something that is easily integratable (and has been for some time). However, it reminds me of how the content areas begin to blur, to overlap, to become integrated. This, I believe is a great benefit to our students.

Why is it that our states continue to create their own frameworks, standards, curriculum, or whatever they choose to call them as opposed to embracing national frameworks? Aren't we in this together?

When reviewing the National Council of Teachers of English's new framework, I wonder about what needs to happen in the state of New Hampshire, in my curriculum mapping school system in order for the framework to receive life? Mapping is all well in good, but it seems we are mapping past practice as opposed to being challenged to embrace the 21st Century possibilities of our instruction and our learning.

What do we do about ensuring that this vision is nationally accepted? I read the article "The Partnership Offers Recommendations to Help the Obama White House Forge a 21st Century Workforce." This is a start at the top, but what implications does it have for a small school system in northern New Hampshire? We need to be our own advocates for integration; however, what do you do about standardizing this integration for each elementary, self-contained environment if some teachers are embracing, using, and successful with various aspects of the vision and others are still teaching in 20th Century states of mind?

Where is New Hampshire in the State Initiatives?

The mission of The Partnership for 21st Century Skills: Serve as a catalyst to position 21st century skills at the center of US K-12 education by building collaborative partnerships among education, business, community and government leaders ( Something that I am beginning to notice is that this site and the School 2.o may or may not be focusing on the families. I think that each is aware that the students and parents are "Stakeholders," but I wonder what are they offering these stakeholders? Technology accessibility in their homes? Is it important in this country as it is in many others to connect families at home? I still know a few teachers without Internet access in their home due to the expense. In my classes there are only about 60% of the students that have a computer at home with Internet capabilities. What are the implications of this in our progressive approach to knowledge acquisition?

Friday, December 26, 2008

School 2.0 Website Review Thoughts

School 2.0
Obtainable in Littleton?

Figure 1 The School 2.0 Learning Ecosystem (

As I perused the School 2.0 site at, I did so with the question they posed in mind: How might these elements be part of your vision for what schools in your community can provide?

My community’s school has put the cart before the horse in a manner of speaking. Perhaps that isn't a totally accurate visual; perhaps I’m not being fair to the system; perhaps a lot of things. However, I do know that within the high school students are taking online courses and feel overwhelmed and unprepared for them. It seems we are offering new avenues for students to acquire knowledge, but we are missing the foundations to allow them to be successful in that environment. I wish to focus on this one mode of School 2.0 knowledge acquisition: online or distant learning classes.

School 2.0 states, “These tools lead to the creation of a set of living documents that capture the community's education vision and that serve to guide the school or district through the process of creating learning environments that are future focused and that leverage technology to be both engaging and productive.”

I wonder if our district is looking at the tools we have or that are available to us and backtracking them to the needs of the learner or the readiness of the learner. Does that make sense? We may be establishing modes of knowledge acquisition that we haven’t prepared students for. Or perhaps those modes of knowledge are still set in the traditional instruction of students without the person-person interaction. Now I know I am becoming vague and even distorted. What I am thinking about is a blog post I read, perhaps The Fischbowl, that questioned if our online and/or distant learning instructors should undergo student teaching in that setting either in addition to or instead of the traditional classroom setting. With all that is available to us as learners, are we really meeting the needs of our students?

I also wonder if our school has ever focused or functioned with a “community’s education vision” in mind. Who is guiding my school in the creation of learning environments? I see it as a here and now approach. A some will and some won’t approach. I don’t see that there is a vision or that conversation has occurred to create a “community’s education vision.” Perhaps there is effort being made to help achieve this; however, what most people see in our school community are leaders that are treading water. If there is a vision it needs to be shared. If were shared at this point it would not be a community vision as teachers would not have been involved in the establishment of that vision. There needs to be a vision; there needs to be a continuum of learning approaches from the early grades to help prepare our students for a world of knowledge that is still being formed. We all need to work together to make that happen. First and foremost we must keep our learners in mind. We need to trust one another's knowledge; administrators, teachers, learners, and community members are all equals in this visioning.

Figure 2 The School 2.0 Transformation Tools (

Monday, December 22, 2008

Connecting Begins at Home

Back to my thoughts on Skype. I LOVE it. My parents have been travelling this winter. They closed down their home and headed out in their truck with their Beagle and a tent. Early this past fall they left for three weeks, and the disconnect was too much. I was able to talk on the phone whenever I wanted, but this winter between camping sites in national parks and the occasional hotel I wasn't sure where they were. They would only call on the weekends during their free cell minutes, but the phone calls just can't hold a light to the conversations that Skype has to offer. I convinced them last weekend to buy a web cam and create a Skype account. They did this morning, and you couldn't wipe the smiles off their faces. Though they are still suspicious of "The Man," they felt comfortable enough with the limited information required to create a Skype account. Their is a shift happening, but it's not just in the schools, churches, and businesses. This shift is occurring at a very personal level. This shift starts with the individual in their personal lives in their family lives. My nearly-sixty (they'd hate to know of this reference as they still act quite young) are accepting this shift. My two younger sisters are sold on this communication tool, and they will be setting their connection up in the next few days. Christmas is a time that we don;t want to miss with our parents. Connecting begins at home.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Shift Happens Thoughts

As I view this again and again, the one slide keeps coming back to haunt me:

“We are currently preparing students for jobs and technologies that don’t yet exist…in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.”

Karl Fisch really hits home with this statement. I see my school as not even being up to speed with the technology available two years ago let alone looking to the future. My school, and I am assuming many schools, are operating in a deficit of technology. With three laptops working efficiently in our school library (the other fifteen are waiting for upgrades and waiting and waiting), I am becoming more and more frustrated with the inadequacies from which we conduct education. Not being up-to-speed with current technology is only part of my anxiety. Knowing that even Albert Einstein said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them," leaves such an endless progression of uncertainty.

I'm going to make a random connection to Orson Scott Card's novel Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus. In this novel you see just how vital it is for the world to work together if, in fact, the people and the environment is to survive.

The possibilities are there for this to happen. They are litterally at our fingertips. We all need to begin making those connections. I am eager to do so myself.

First Thoughts…

I knew in September that Teaching and Learning in the Connected Classroom was just what I needed. I had just spent the summer in the Plymouth Writing Project’s (PWP) Summer Institute as a first time fellow. It was the greatest experience that I have ever had in developing my teaching skills. As part of the Institute I chose to look at the potential for creating my own Ning for my class. Quickly I was blocked with the notion of having students just shy of the national age requirements. I felt that the enthusiasm I had developed was immediately deflated. However, I never stopped my online discussion about it with peers from around the country. My answers to these technology questions and my pursuit for more opportunities to connect my students would be found in this Plymouth State University course.

Blackboard is such a limited program, so when I found that the course would be using a Ning I felt confident that I chose the correct place to continue my journey. However, I wasn’t expecting to read the projects that I would be undertaking and feel so unknowledgeable.

I first heard the word Skype two summers ago at a teacher workshop during the days before school opened. I knew it was some sort of cheap communication tool, but I gave it little thought as I had no reason to use it—we even joked about how dirty “to Skype someone” sounded. Two and a half years later I am purchasing a web cam and downloading Skype. The anticipation of “officially” using it led me to find the one other person I knew had used it to communicate with her daughter in Australia. I had to give it a test run, of course. It was like unwrapping a stocking gift. Then the big “gift” arrived when I answered the traditional phone ring (as I enjoy toying with settings—sometimes too much) and connected with Jeff in Bangkok. Just imagine! This could be a tool to bring me closer to a teacher from Afghanistan that I met over the summer in Plymouth. It’s not so dirty after all.

Certainly, I have heard of podcasts. However, I really didn’t know what they were. I knew you could get a podcast from CNN Student news, but didn’t really know how. I’m still uncertain. Is what makes a podcast different from a web page the fact that you download it to an Ipod (just last month I purchased my first)? Is it just sound or video too? Is it a news-type release or can it be anything? After talking to Jeff, I understand the content will be my choice; however, the element that makes it different from an item on a web page evades me. I am, none the less, excited about the implications for creating one with my students.

Blogging is another new adventure for me. Yes, I searched for the term and read the complete history of the “blog.” As a result it made the most sense for me to title my blog with the original use “a web log.” This gave me a frame of mind to guide my use of my blog. My husband jokes that it’s just rambling. “Blablablablablog,” he teases. Perhaps after reading this entry you will understand why he may feel that way.

As you can see, I am both challenged and excited about this course. I don’t think I have taken a course that I feel less confident in, and that is just what I need at this juncture of my teaching career.