Sunday, December 6, 2009

NECAP Writing Rubric



minimal evidence of purpose

attempted or vague purpose

writing has a general purpose

purpose is evident; focus/controlling idea may not be maintained

purpose is clear; focus/controlling idea is maintained throughout

purpose is clear throughout; strong focus/controlling idea OR strongly

stated purpose focuses the writing


little or no organization

attempted organization; lapses in coherence

some sense of organization; may have lapses in coherence

generally organized and coherent

well organized and coherent throughout

intentionally organized for effect


random or minimal details

generalized, listed, or undeveloped details

some relevant details support purpose

details are relevant and mostly support purpose

details are relevant and support purpose; details are sufficiently


fully developed details; rich and/or insightful elaboration supports


Language/ Structure

rudimentary or deficient use of language

may lack sentence control or may use language poorly

uses language adequately; may show little variety of sentence


well-constructed sentences; uses language well

strong command of sentence structure; uses language to enhance


distinctive voice, tone, and style enhance meaning

Grammar/ Usage/


may have errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics that interfere with


may have errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics that interfere with


may have some errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics

may have some errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics

consistent application of the rules of grade-level grammar, usage, and


consistent application of the rules of grade-level grammar, usage, and


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Though is worth our time to view and reflect upon. What are your thoughts?

This may be presented in response to college level education; however, as you view and connect you'll see that it's a festering of what the middle and high school teachers are experiencing.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Student Centered Learning

Alright, I have been looking for videos to use with a small group of teachers that are working together on a school improvement committee that is focusing on student learning. I'm struggling to find an engaging video. Among the videos I have found that include the essence of the focus:

With this video it is just within th efirst half that Student Centered Learning occurs.

And that is it for now. How do we find video on student centered focus without the emphsis on technology? I am begining to think you can't seperate the two in many ways. Technology engages the students to explore problems and solve them using people and information that is very distant. I am still prefering videos like the following, but my quest is "Do they motivate teachers?" (They motivate me.)

I think we all need to step back and think about what impact we can have on our students as learners. After all we are preparing them for jobs that may not even exist at this time. Karl Fisch is helping us see the bigger picture that we need to keep in mind as we address the needs of our students. I would encourage you to add his blog to your RSS feed if you haven't already.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Social Media Revolution!
It is amazing how our world has changed. Now it's our place to change the way we teach our students to be prepared for such a world.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

"Enjoy the Ride"

This is for me as much as it is for anyone that stumbles upon this post! I stumbled upon it shortly after selecting to follow prosperity365 on Twitter when he Retweeted ClaudiaBroome reference to peasandluvfrmJO: It linked to Enjoy the power of connecting.

Sunday, April 5, 2009


Have you ever felt destined for something? Have you known that this or that is what you should be pursuing in life? Has it just hit you that this is your place, your passion, your contribution to society? Have you had that feeling of ease in a decision, because you knew it was meant to be--your destiny?

Moments like those must come to a chosen few. I wish I had that moment of peace in a decision. But then it truly wouldn't have been a decision would it...

Monday, March 30, 2009

Sometime you have to see who is throwing them in!

My husband continues to remind me of this analogy that a professor shared with him during his MSW studies at UNE: (It goes something like this...)

Imagine this river with people floating down struggling to survive the current. There are people on the shoreline watching. Some walk away. Some watch. Some try to help.

One-by-one the struggling floaters are pulled to safety. More, however, keep coming. Soon there are too many to save. Some continue down river to rougher currents.

One of those helping with the rescue of the strugglers stops and walks away.

"Where are you going?" one of the rescuers ask. "I need your help. You can't go now."

The person leaving responds, "I'm going up river to see who is throwing them in and stop it."

I'm sure others have heard this antic, but I keep thinking about it as I am presented with tougher and tougher groups of students. I ask, "What is going on in these kids' experiences that are causing all of their struggles? Can things change? What can I do to help?"

I'm not just a teacher. I'm much, much more. Do all teachers feel the same way?

I'm Worthy Too! "Personalizing Education for Teachers, Too" (based on Will Richardson's thoughts)

Personalizing Education for Teachers, Too

Posted using ShareThis

It is very frustrating to be a teacher, who differentiates learning as well as she can for her students, thrown into a staff development day that reviews the basics of differentiation. Surprise! I still have hair and eyes--as I refused to succumb to the desire to remove both.

As I browse my Reader, I often star blogs and sometimes begin my own blogs based upon their content. (I wonder if that's a practice others have.) I realized today that the link to Will Richardson's February 28th Weblogg-ed blog "Personalizing Education for Teachers, Too" was still sitting untouched as a draft. (I wish I could manage my time to include blogging weekly or daily.) We need to remember the teachers' needs for differentiation as well.

Though I haven't read The Element by Sir Ken Robinson as was the focus of Richardson's blog, I hope to soon.

Richardson states in his blog:

"As I thought about those points, I started thinking about how we treat teachers and their learning as well. So much of professional development is throwing everyone in a room and having them learn the same stuff. Maybe there is some choice in the offerings, but by and large there is very little attempt at creating a customized professional development curriculum for teachers. Yes, we have our PIPs, but those usually address deficiencies or weaknesses, not passions."

At this point there are 63 comments to his blog post.

It is worth the time to review and follow Will Richardson's blog. He's a connector in this shifting world.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Most Healthy States

The Healthy States in America
I'm surprised to see that all of the New England states placed within the top 11 in the country!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Is Potential Ours?

I love my reader and wished I had more time to spend exploring more bloggers' work. However, today I was able to spend some time exploring and felt (yet again) that wow! sensation of knowing that I can, that I need to, make a shift in my teaching as I have with my learning. From Cool Cat Teacher's Blog my Aha! moment began.

What a motivational video produced by kids for us, their teachers. Makes me ready to shift it up a whole lot. What a great job they did touching on something many educators seem to forget--their capabilities.

As if that wasn't enough, Mrs. Patterson, a first grade teacher that has her students blogging, replied with a link to the following video:

It is just amazing what students are capable of doing. They don't get there when we don't believe in them. They don't get there when we limit their creativity. They don't get there when we limit ourselves to the "test" or to past practice or even best practice. They get there when we start teaching them how to learn, how to reach their potential, how to be the best they can be.

All of this brought me back to the first blog that I found in my reader today. Clarence Fischer's blog Remote Access blog entry called Tinkering is both enjoyable and motivational. He displayed the following video as he reflected on the various posts that encouraged the notion of tinkering as vital to fostering lifelong learners.

Imagine becoming that one teacher that allows students to learn on their own because they want to learn. Imagine their future in education. How do you learn best? I certainly have found that with the technology that I have become exposed to through Jeff Utecht's course I have found that by doing, experimenting, and taking a chance I learn best. When I can tinker, I will learn.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Reflections Post

As most of you may be aware, I have been participating in one of the best courses that Plymouth State University, or any other university, could offer on networked learning. The course, taught by Jeff Utecht and Kim Tufts, was Teaching and Learning in the Networked Classroom. What a great opportunity it was to push you to the next level of comfort in the digital age! Just imagine a course that actually encourages (OK, requires) the use of the tools rather than preaching the implications the tools have upon your teaching. My learning will never be the same.

What an invaluable, yes-invaluable, tool the Google Reader is! I am capable of designing my own learning opportunities and they are delivered daily to my Reader. Can you imagine to potentials this offers our students? As connectors, we become the portal to learning opportunities that permit our students to extend beyond the offered studies of our courses.

I am looking forward to the use of Skype in my class as a tool to connect my students to other students around the world. Now I have the tools and connections to make this happen. First hand knowledge and group work on real-life issues is just what our students need.

Although this has been my first experience with blogging, it certainly will not be my last. I just hope that others keep in touch, and I actually get feed back. That feedback, that audience component is vital to me. It is certainly something that I want to work more with.

This course work was accessed through a wiki page. I learned about Wikis over the summer and was excited about using it with my students; however, I ran into age issues. Nonetheless, with parental permission, I was able to establish a wiki page for the Winter Wellness activity that I offered. I had mixed success with the work here, as it was a creative writing focus and many of my students were simply unwilling to engage their efforts in writing. I hope to begin a wiki for my students in the spring as part of their English course work.

Podcasts. Another first for me. I made one. I would have to say it wasn't "me" or perhaps a better way to say that is it wasn't my voice, my personality. This takes time and confidence--two things I need to work on. However, my weakness didn't stop me from requiring my students to try it as well. We have just begun the recordings on the limited number of computers and mics we have. Next comes the editing and possible posting. (I really need to work on encouraging our tech guy to establish teacher maintained websites from our weak, weak school page.) I have a long way to go, but I have found some schools around the world that do a great job posting their students' podcasts. (I have even dabbled in digital video projects in reading class. Some of my students have posted theirs on YouTube. Pretty impressive work.)

Although I have learned a great deal through my work during this semester, I think that my recommendation for other teachers that may or may not be taking this course is to jump in feet first and make technology happen within your classroom. With all the free Web2.0 tools, you have all that you need. The other teachers will see the value of technology in the classroom; the students will enjoy it and many will flourish. Some of your hardest to reach students may become your student connectors to technology. It has happened in my classroom, and it will happen in yours.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Project Based Learning

It seems so logical, so obvious, so practical. Project Based Learning. It's not new; it draws on theories that have been around for a very long time. Yet, we still revert back to the traditional 19th and 20th Century assessment tools.

Why is it that we unjustly assess our students on "high stakes" tests by standardizing our students when we know how diverse and individual and non-standardized they are?

It amazes me how we can teach people how to do something in a way that totally negates the approach being taught. For example, I don't know how many undergraduate and graduate course and even workshops I have attended that teach various approaches to meet the various learning styles and needs of our students, yet they use the traditional structure of lecture to do so. It drives me crazy.

Some day, perhaps, all of us will be able to embrace the individual needs of our students and assess them on the qualities that matter. And what better way than through project based learning opportunities.

Today I was in the doctor's office, and he spoke of his experience in the "hippie" medical program. Though the program was just an experiment at the time, it eliminated the objective tests and focused on the process of learning through project based learning. Teachers facilitated while the students directed their own learning through an inquiry-based model. True this is not for all learners, but what it does is foster the development of life-long learners and investigators--Isn't that what we want our doctors to be? Give me a doctor that keeps up on current research and practice over a doctor that graduated top of his class in his objective-test based medical program.

How does this equate to our students? Look at our drop-out rate nationally: According to the National Center for Education Statistics the dropout rate in 2006 was 9.3% (that's down since the 14.6% 1972--that surprised me). What happened in education that may account for this 5% decrease? Perhaps those of you that taught through it may be able to explain. I am wondering when project based learning began to really root itself in education. The Buck Institute says it has been around for 100 years.

In the Buck Institute for Education's Handbook: Introduction to Project Based Learning, outstanding projects do the following:

Recognize students' inherent drive to learn, their capability to do important work, and their need to be taken seriously by putting them at the center of the learning process.

  • Engage students in the central concepts and principles of a discipline. The project work is central rather than peripheral to the curriculum.
  • Highlight provocative issues or questions that lead students to in-depth exploration of authentic and important topics.
  • Require the use of essential tools and skills, including technology, for learning, self-management, and project management.
  • Specify products that solve problems, explain dilemmas, or present information generated through investigation, research, or reasoning.
  • Include multiple products that permit frequent feedback and consistent opportunities for students to learn from experience.
  • Use performance-based assessments that communicate high expectations, present rigorous challenges, and require a range of skills and knowledge.
  • Encourage collaboration in some form, either through small groups, student-led presentations, or whole-class evaluations of project results.

Project Based Learning prevails in schools that have adopted the Middle School Philosophy. Reinventing Project-Based Learning: Your Field Guide to Real-World Projects in the Digital Age is a book that sparked my interest as I begin to explore the potentials of the project base learning that I currently employ in my classroom. I am really interested in working with teachers collaboratively across boarders. I have a contact in Pakistan that may be interested.

There are a lot of great models out there, and there are a lot of inspiring individuals like Bill Strickland that encourage us to try the best approaches to educating our society's youth.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Making it all happen...

We talk about change; we confirm the need for change in our politics, our church, our schools. But what do we each, each, do to initiate that change, to work on solutions, to foster a better culture? What do we do?
George Siemens writes about the need for change in his work Knowing Knowledge. He states:
  • "We are in the early stages of dramatic change—change that will shake the spaces and structures of our society. Knowledge, the building block of tomorrow, is riding a tumultuous sea of change."
  • "Left in the wake of cataclysmic change are the knowledge creation and holding structures of the past. The ideologies and philosophies of reality and knowing—battle spaces of thought and theory for the last several millennia—have fallen as guides. Libraries, schools, businesses—engines of productivity and society—are stretching under the heavy burden of change."
Where can we start? So many bloggers have been questioning and philosophizing.
Jeff Utecht's The Thinking Stick blog entry "The Beginning of the End"
  • "I feel the momentum of change coming."
  • "I don’t know about you…but I see the pieces slowly moving together. It’s like looking at a map for the first time after learning about the Continental Drift Theory…and for the first time you step back and you look…..and you see it….you see how all of the pieces could fit together…and you have a moment…a moment where you go WHOA!"

Scott McLeod's Dangerously Irrelevant entry "It's not a revolution unless someone gets hurt"

  • "I think it is becoming increasingly clear that our current system of education is going to go away. There are simply too many societal pressures and alternative paradigms for it to continue to exist in its current form.
    The only question, then, is: How long are we going to thrash around before we die?"

Carl Anderson's Techno Constructivist entry "Hybrid Project-Based Charter Idea Explained"

  • "I have been exploring the possibility of starting a new charter school in Minnesota that is partially virtual but will exist as digitally connected classrooms within the walls of our existing public schools."

But where do we go from there. We can't sit around and wait for something. We need to be advocates; we need to foster an environment to make that SHIFT happen. Individuals can't do it alone... it takes a communities effort. Carl Anderson sees that, and he is drawing upon his local community's involvement. (There is a video in his entry worth viewing.) I hope he continues to realize that support is available in this vast space I'm using now.

George Siemens believes that to "'Know where' and 'know who' are more important today than knowing what and how. An information rich world requires the ability to first determine what is important, and then how to stay connected and informed as information changes." What valuable insight. This insight is no different than that of Bill Strickland's as he progressively made one connection after another to foster his dream of providing an educational outlet for the poor of his Pittsburgh community. The Manchester Craftsmen's Guild was his dream, and through his ability to make personal connections with people his dream was made a success. He knows, as spoken by Siemens, that " knowledge is not intended to fill minds. It is intended to open them." And that is just what Strickland has done for the poor neglected by our traditional systems of education. "You've got to look like the solution; not the problem," Strickland argues in the following video.

Strickland is right "There is nothing wrong with the kids." It's the system.

"We need to step outside of the destination view of learning and embrace the journey view" (Siemens), just as Strickland has done, before we are able to help foster that successful Shift in our educational institutions. We need to think big and act big and then, maybe then, we'll see what this change in education looks like.

"We advance humanity’s potential through knowledge. We advance humanity through emotion." -George Siemens

“You must be prepared to act on your dreams just in case they do come true.” -Bill Strickland

Do we have to be a George Siemens or a Bill Strickland to make things happen? No, but we do need to work together, support one another, and foster change when we know that it is the right road to take.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Teaching in a New Networked World

I didn't know that a high school teacher in our school system was teaching an online course to twenty students from our school and various other locations within and beyond the states. I googled the teacher and found nothing more than his name listed as a staff member and assignment in our school district. How did he shield his online identity so well? How connected is this teacher? What basis is he using to develop the course work offered? I really began wondering.

I have often, lately, felt that I would love to offer a course purely online in writing. Could I do it? I am sure I could; however, would I do it well?

In reading George Siemens' book Knowing Knowledge "Designing" chapter, he states "Perhaps even our notion of design is worth rethinking—do we design learning? Or do we design environments in which motivated learners can acquire what they need?" His notion of the "motivated learner" made me do a retake of the passage. I know I design learning opportunities for my students; however, not all of my seventh graders are motivated. Perhaps it's my job to motivate them, but do you know that there are always a few that escape motivation? A few of these students will make fostering an environment of knowledge acquisition a challenge. Discipline is always going to be a necessity in a classroom.

I wonder what kinds of issues arise with the instruction of an online course? I can image that, like the traditional classroom, motivation is a factor. However, I would believe in both cases the motivated learners flourish. Do the poor behaviors come through and impact the other students in a class? Certainly their lack of participation would impact the opportunities for others to obtain knowledge from their contributions, but it's nothing like having to remove an unruly person from the room (though this rarely happens in my class).

I have recently had the opportunity to do some Flip Camera Videos with my Winter Wellness writing students (Thursdays once a week for six weeks). All but one of the computers repeatedly rejected the Flip program. How frustrating was it to not have the technology work! Perhaps due to the limitations of my student's account status; perhaps due to the limitations of the operating systems. I don't know. What I have learned is that with the volatile state of our in-house hardware, I have had to ensure that a second, back-up lesson is prepared and ready to go. Otherwise, we're talking chaos and not the Chaos Siemens refers to as the place where learning and connecting can occur unless he is talking about the middle school students form of connection.

Siemens also remarks that "we need to step outside of the destination view of learning and embrace the journey view." On a personal level, this is the approach that works best for me as a learner. Perhaps for many of my students this is best for them--I see it in many of the technology-based activities they do for class. (I had one student come in so excited about figuring out how to edit a YouTube video and include it in her Windows Movie Maker presentation for her book review.)

It's this area of releasing control in a classroom that creates personal and professional dissonance. Do parents understand that it's okay for their children to be curious about the tools of technology? Do parents understand that sometimes they don't have to be able to answer their child's questions, and it's okay for their child to find the answer through trial and error? When students have shared the work they have done using various technology tools, other students want to explore those tools on their own. When a parent questions why a teacher didn't warn them or give explicit directions to their child for using various tools, how comfortable is a teacher in encouraging this self-exploration, the most valuable tool for learning?

George Siemens captures it perfectly when he says: "Rather than being excited that we can participate in the rich, diverse world of differing perspectives and opinions, we pull back because 'we do not know.' It is not that we fear the state of not knowing. We fear others seeing that we do not know. How do we teach learners to accept (and value) not knowing?"

Exploring the Web

While exploring the website k12onlineconference, I stumbled upon a link to Edutopia. After signing up for their free sample magazine, I navigated to a video about a Malden, Massachusetts, fifth grade interdisciplinary unit that integrated technology effectively. I was captured by the video and have it attached here:

If you would like to read more about this project, there is an article by Robert Simpson entitled "Visualizing Technology Integration: A Model for Meeting ISTE Educational-Technology Standards."

Projects like these remind us that by working together anything is possible.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

PLNs and Our Learning Communities

Why is it that I am always underestimating the possibilities of my seventh graders' use of technology--participation in a wiki, use of the RSS reader, etc.? Why have I been feeling that I need to apply for that HS English position in my school to be able to better use the Web 2.0 tools? Why have I been feeling limited? Why have I been limiting?

Well, I'd say I have had these notions as a result of my own ignorance, my own boxed in limitations (along with the null exposure to technology by my students, and the limited school resources). In reality, I should be diving in (as I have begun to do so), because these same students will not be any better off as high school students if they are not introduced to the possibilities of creating their own learning communities (even if I do facilitate the structuring of them)--it has to start somewhere. I would face the same limitations with HS students as I do with MS students. The one thing I have going for me is that middle school students are more readily willing to try the tools. They're still malleable. So, now that I have gotten over that "grass is greener" moment. I am ready to move on!

(A hydrostone sculpture by Michael Alfano)

The funny thing about Personal Learning Communities is that they are so individualized that structuring them is very arbitrary. Every individual is just that individual in their thoughts, interests, motivations.... When George Siemens speaks about "Overload of Diversity" in his book Knowing Knowledge he says, "Knowing resides in the collective of many differing, diverse viewpoints. This requires new skills of interacting and functioning, especially since our schools are still teaching basics for an era that no longer exists." He was speaking to me. Was he speaking to you too?
The essence of a personal learning community is the individual seeking knowledge and communication. I think back at my "Black Hole of Web 2.0" entry, and visualize each individual (teacher, student, community member, random person) as a star. Some stars may be gathered in galaxies (perhaps such communities as Classroom 2.0 or the NWP Rural Sites Network); some stars drift among galaxies--their boundaries undefined. The planets are the variety of learning opportunities offered to the stars--some many, some few, some none. Those stars without planets are either just starting, dead, or dying. The point being is that we limit ourselves to "past practice" we are not permitting our stars to reach their full potentials or, in some cases, any potential.
Our job as teachers is to connect, not limit, our students to the world of learning that they should be experiencing: introduce them to an RSS, show them how to judge Internet sources of knowledge, and above all give them control of their learning through guidance and immersion. To do this, we need to be leaders in our schools. We need to model the effective use of these tools in our classroom and for our peers. We need to function as leaders within the personal learning communities of others.
I've got a lot of work to do if I want my children to be taught with approaches that are not "basics from an era that no longer exists."

Saturday, February 7, 2009

A black hole or Web 2.0?

Can you tell?

In Wikipedia the abstract concept of a black hole is given shape: "According to Einstein's theory of general relativity, a black hole is a region of space in which the gravitational field is so powerful that nothing, including electromagnetic radiation (e.g. visible light), can escape its pull after having fallen past its event horizon."

The computer simulated images above is credited to Ute Kraus, Max-Planck-Institut für Gravitationsphysik, Golm, and Theoretische Astrophysik, Universität Tübingen

Drawing of a black hole Credit: XMM-Newton, ESA, NASA

"The black hole information paradox results from the combination of quantum mechanics and general relativity. It suggests that physical information could 'disappear' in a black hole, allowing many physical states to evolve into precisely the same state."

I don't know about you, but I see and seem to be experiencing Web 2.0 as a black hole. Is it possible? Is it a "bad" thing? I've decided it is possible and it's not a bad thing.

Upon completing the chapters "Emotions and Creativity" and "Implications-Structural/Spiritual Impact" in Knowing Knowledge by George Siemens, I felt this even stronger. Siemens states, "We exist in dimensions beyond pure cognition. We are shaped by social interactions. We are influenced by our emotions, our motivations. We require transformative (spiritual) knowledge for novel recombinations (to rethink and recast information)." I know we are all multidimensional, but we are all entering this space, this world wide web space, this Web 2.0 space that is not easily understood. A transformation of the knowledge we hold and those with whom we share this knowledge occurs in an undefined space, for me, a black hole. And where does that information go after it bounces around among the planets and stars (individuals) and the solar systems (online communities)? Those words, that information, our virtual work define us as individuals; however, who we are may or may not be an accurate reflected in that work, as it is absorbed by others.

Siemens concludes, "The capacity for shared understanding today does not arise from being exposed to the same resources. It arises from being transparent with each other. A tool is required that allows us to manage our identity and share what we wish with those we wish." I would argue that the gravity of this tool hold us together and perhaps transforms us into transparent individuals. But do we disappear in this space? Is that what happens in a black hole? Is this what holds us together in Web 2.0?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Plymouth Writing Project: A Podcast Review

Podcasting! Another first for me. It took some time to complete this podcast. The recording and planning was easy; however, the editing and posting was more of a challenge for me.

I used Audacity to record. I wanted music for the intro and conclusion; this I found at Podsafe Audio. I used the fading options and it all worked out well.

Then I exported it to an MP3 file. I had to down load Lame Mp3 Encoder. The export was complete after I named and completed the necessary information for the file.

Finally, I posted the podcast on Podomatic. From Podomatic I was able to post the podcast to my Blogger page and my Facebook page.

I hope that this helps my classmates in Teaching and Learning in a Networked Classroom.

I look forward to your feedback; and perhaps, just perhaps, I will see you this summer in one of the Plymouth Writing Project Summer Institutes.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Wikis in Education

I believe that the only way to truly explore a tool is to use it. That is the best part about Teaching and Learning in a Networked Environment. I first learned of wikis during my fellowship through the Plymouth Writing Project when I explored the book Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms by Will Richardon as part of my research component to the expeience. The book is rich with potentials for classroom technology integration.

I fell in love with the National Writing Projects' summer opportunity for fellows to post their writing and receive feedback from educators all over the country--the world even. Never before had I received such rich feedback on my writing. This was the opportunity I needed to give my students.

Perhaps prematurely in August, I set out creating a wiki for my students. And then the reality of my students' young age set in--It didn't seem like it would be possible. There is such insecurity among parents and educators alike when it comes to using the web 2.o tools. It's almost fear--but more like ignorance of the reality that it is better to teach the students about the proper use rather than sheild them from the potential benefits of the web.

So, I have decided to test the waters of a wiki with my Winter Wellness writers. It's such a new tool for them that there are many obstacles to overcome in the six-days that I have them. We have had our second day to work on our writing, and I have found that we have spent more time playing with the wiki page's tools than writing. This past Thursday we had trouble even logging on--no surprise as our technology tools have been a work in progress throughout the district.

I see such potential if I can make this work. Students in other areas of the world could be offering suggestions to my students regarding their writing. If I could just get past the limitations of both our district's technology and my students lack of exposure to it, I could really open my students up to some great opportunities.

Becoming a Fish

"In Relation to Knowing," a chapter in Knowing Knowledge by George Siemens, has left me trying to grasp the thought that knowledge is a stream. It truly makes sense when I reflect upon it as it is always growing and changing; however, there is no comfort in the thought that certainty of knowing is a mere arbitrary construction an individual imposes to gain security. (Does that make sense?)
For those that find an end to their learning (which we all must know as never existing) whether it be acquiring that degree or comfort level in their profession, they have fallen short of their potential. When one stops seeking knowledge or even questioning their current knowledge and understanding, they have failed themselves.

Siemens states: "We are too impatient with knowledge. We categorize it by imposing our models of organization." I know that I am impatient and must categorize; however, as I continue to browse my RSS each day, I am seeing that I have to release that categorization and grasp each new piece of information in a rather vitalizing way.

No longer satisfied being the fisherman of learning, I have stepped into the stream some where north of Pittsburg, NH. I have a ways to go before I am fully immersed in the breadth of knowledge available to me. Someday perhaps I'll find myself living as a fish in this fluid domain.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Fisching for Motivation

In this day and age, as desperate and exciting as it may be, many people are missing the big picture. I would argue that any one of us can give our students the education they need despite the lack of awareness that seems to be flourishing around us.

The Fischbowl had a fascinating and motivating blog this week entitled "What's Impossible in the Classroom." Karl Fisch reminds us that we are the only ones limiting our classrooms' possibilities. In this January 29, 2009, post he says:

So, if all these 'impossible' things are happening in our world today, not to mention the impossible things that can happen if we perfect quantum computing and teleportation, what's impossible in your classroom?

Maybe, just maybe, you can find a way to do the impossible. Shouldn't you start trying?

I know that there certainly is more that I should be doing! I'm ready! Are my seventh graders?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What type of Fae are you?

Something a little light and fun and relaxing and..... mindless. Sometime that I need.

Is it all terminaology?

So, as you may or may not have guessed, I am an outspoken person. Many of you may be as well, so you know what I mean when I say that I don't always agree with others. I'm not one to stop and accept things that I don't find to be true. I will not make something "look good" just because it is expected of me. I will defend my point of view until my ideas and perceptions are changed. I do my research, and I present my perspective to others. They may agree or disagree--to me it doesn't matter, I actually prefer hearing another perspective. I am a good listener.

Now, I have been a middle school teacher for nine years now, and I have worked with a strong team. Our students' learning has always been the focus of our discussions and decisions. Last spring I was sent to two days of DuFour PLC training. What great motivational speakers, Richard and Rebecca DuFour. My thoughts are that the middle school teaming approach to education was the foundation of the Professional Learning Community outlined by the DuFours. They identify three big ideas in the May 2004 Educational Leadership article "Schools as Learning Communities: What Is a 'Professional Learning Community'?"

Big Idea #1: Ensuring That Students Learn
Big Idea #2: A Culture of Collaboration
Big Idea #3: A Focus on Results

These are the big ideas that my middle school team has demonstrated for years. With the exception of the couple making a whole lot of money on their concept, does anyone have any insight on the differences between the work of a middle school team of teachers and this "new" PLC initiative? My argument is that they are very similar.

Now, the reason I ask is that recently my PLC was asked to present to the school board regarding what a PLC is. My team composed a handout for board members regarding the work we have been doing for years and how this "new" initiative reinforces the work we have been doing. It's not new; we have been working in professional learning communities for years. As my team's PLC facilitator, I did the presentation. The rest of the story is unfolding....

Some administrators, perhaps, hold the belief that teaming and a PLC are nothing alike.

Any feedback would be helpful in framing my thoughts.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Personal Identity Should We Shield It?

I've explored numerous blogs, and many shield the identity of the blogger. I've got it all out there. Jen Carbonneau that's me. What's my worry? Should I become a Mrs. C or another pseudonym?

All I can think of is the Ender's Game series by Orson Scott Card. Two of the characters, Valentine and Peter Wiggin, use various names to establish online identities. Eventually, their true identities are revealed and they end up in powerful places.

My questions to all of you: Why do people hide themselves from the online community that they influence? Do you? Should I? (I know that it's a personal choice on my part; I just want to explore possibilities.)

What do you think?

I have written about how the reading of one blog in my RSS has been leading me to other blogs of interest. Last week I found myself at Mr. D's blog I Want to Teach Forever. I am more than certain that I arrived at his page through MS Teacher. Both offer fascinating ideas; both worth spending time with.

With all that said, I responded to Mr. D's blog 52 Teachers, 52 Lessons Project . Today, Mr. D posted 52 Teachers, 52 Lessons: Week 2 and my thoughts are there. Check it out! It's neat to see that your thoughts and ideas can appear in another blogger's work. Thank you, Mr. D, for the opportunity. I hope others take advantage of it as well.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Realm of RSS

This is truly a realm of its own. Managed well the realm is able to be ruled over; unmanaged or managed poorly the realm will take over. I think control is the key to a successful use of my RSS.

My students will be interviewing veterans, so I add a feed for the phrase "veteran interviews" from Google News. The notion of having "over 29,000 news articles from over 4,500 newspapers around the world (according to Google) and once you do this search and add the RSS to your reader you will be continually updated with the latest news articles from Google's News search" is enticing. I just need to arrange folders for the information.

I have found that this past week led me to review my current RSS blogs, link to the blog, comment, link to other blogs discussed in the blog, and add another blog to my RSS. I have had trouble keeping the blogs of my classmates seperated from the blogs of the other bloggers of the world. I still am unsure if I am receiving or following all the bloggers from the class "Teaching and Learning in the Connected Classroom."

At the start of 2009, it was interesting to see some of the experienced bloggers discuss their need to reevaluate their RSS feeds. Now, I can understand how big things can grow, but there are soooo many resources deemed valuable out there.

Social Bookmarking

I'm doing it. I'm not sure how well, but I've been picking out the key terms in my blogs and adding them as tags, and many of the words I tag have hyperlinks attached to them. I can do it.

Yet, I haven't spent the time to fully understand the resources Delicious and Diigo. I that my tags or labels are automatically added to their database. How accurate is that assumption? Does that mean when there is a Google search my blog will come up if it is tagged with the term, or do you have to be in Delicious or Diigo? How are these tags used?

I began to add the delicious tag "podsafe" to my RSS, but hesitated when warned of all the updates that are made. I can just imagine finding a hundred unread feeds in my RSS. It's frightening. Do I want that now?

Still thinking about these tools and their use!

Fascinated Discussion

"A Talk with Howard Rheingold" through the PLPNetwork Ustream By Will Richardson.

Live Video streaming by Ustream

If you have about an hour, this is worth the viewing. Howard Reingold is fascinating to listen to. Will Richardson helped reveal many of the tools that are out there and the history of how the tools were developed.

Reingold indicates that there are two things that students should be able to do. He asks:

"How do you find the answer to any question on line?"

"How do you find out what you found was true?"

There was never an answer to the second question. However, I was surprised by Reingold's comment on critical thinking or "going beyond what is presented to me." I smiled when he said, "Critical Thinking is a communist plot that will never be aloud by school boards." He continues by expressing how patients a parent or teacher needs to be to encourage students to question them. He reminds us that questioning authority is always shut down. We need to do some soul searching when it comes to teaching our students to question things effectively.

How do we question the information that we find on the Internet?
How do we teach our students to question the information they find?

Media Sharing

"Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful." - Albert Schweitzer

I am happy exploring the possibilities of Web 2.0. The potentials I see for my students are making me feel (call it) happiness for the first time this year. My confidence in the breadth of technology available online free allows me to see myself better able to meet my students' needs. No longer am I freaking out about not have the Microsoft Word programs available. There's Google Docs that helps compensate for our district's financial short comings. I will be successful in my work with my students, because I am happier and more confident in finding the things I need, the things they need but don't know they need, on the web.

I have found that, for the past week, I have confused myself with all of the media that is out there. Nearly every blog I read consists of something that piques my interest. I have made many comments on blogs in response to the tools their sharing. I have emailed from my RSS several blogs to my coworkers. Several of the science teachers may be overwhelmed by my emails. I've thought particularly they would benefit from many of the posts from U Tech Tips . I have also sent posts to my librarian. I am hoping that I will be able to show her how to use her RSS reader. She could benefit from The Shifted Librarian posts by Jenny Levine. Her post Pre-meditated Lust really sold me on the Palm Pre. I love the voice I heard in her post. I sent the The Clarence Fisher post Feltron Report to the math teachers in my building, and after looking at Nicholas Feltron's Feltron Annual Report for 2008, became fascinated by numbers and how they can be represented--who wouldn't. I hope my team members find value in my suggestions.

Media Sharing: Give it a Shot revealed media that I hadn't heard of before. Cotterhall did a nice job with this media sharing. As I commented to her "I seem to be taking and taking ideas from everyone. ... . Keep sharing and I'll keep taking; I just hope that there will be a point where I can start offering you new ideas."

I suppose that at this point my sharing is limited to taking and using myself or sharing the ideas with the teachers that I think could benefit from their use.

For the first time I visited Teacher Tube. I see such a neat source for me and my classes.

I have used YouTube to present things to my students. How easy is it to get my school on You Tube? What permission hoops must I jump through? I can just imagine, but what a great place for them to post their poetry project videos! Their veteran interviews! Their book reviews!

United Streaming is another source I have used to help frame lessons; although, this is a tool with a cost. I know now that there is so much more variety out there for free.

Where is the money for knowledge being made in the world of Web2.0? Everything is free?

Next, I have to determine the tools, the media that best suits my needs. I love the challenge--I just hope Albert Schweitzer is right!

Friday, January 16, 2009

I have stolen Laura's video from her Blog post. Rachel Boyd Nelson offers some practicle, obtainable classroom blogging activities. I thought it would be a great watch for the teachers I work with as I enter this uncharter territory in our school.

So, for my coworker visitors, watch on! Such great potential for us all!

Breathing Life into Us

My first reaction was, "Why is Jeff blogging on this topic?" Jeff Utecht’s blog “7 Things You Might Not Know about Me” struck me as being an entry I couldn't benefit from through the course work we are doing in Plymouth State College's Teaching and Learning in the Networked Classroom.

As the water ran this morning in the only quiet "me" place, the shower, I realized that blog entries like these give life to the person behind the words we read. We need these entries to remind us that it's not the screen talking to us; it's not a faceless, lifeless person; it's someone much like us; a person with similar or different interests that we can relate to. These entries remind us that it's not a computer we are interacting with; it's a person, a living and breathing connector.

With that said, all day I have thought about what seven things I might share about myself. Should I be selective in what I share, or should I simply be honest? Knowing my reader really has no clue about who I am, there is such a wide array of things I could share that are not really that personal. I've decided to share a little of both...

1. I grew from a very quiet, shy child into a confident, outspoken individual. Yet, still experience moments of social anxiety.
2. I am happily married to my high school sweetheart (cliche, huh!).
3. We have two beautiful children aged three and five, both in preschool together this year.
4. I love water activities: kayaking, snorkeling, and wake boarding.
5. I love to hunt turkey, deer, and even rabbits (before my beloved beagle Muzzy died last spring). But don't judge me as I wont judge you.
6. It can take me years to finish a book if I enjoy the characters or plot--I never want it to end.
7. I love to write more than read.

I hope my name comes to life for you.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

“Our mind is a network…an ecology. It adapts to the environment.” -Siemens

I want to be called a 21st Century connector rather than a teacher—teacher implies transmission in my mind—connector implies fostering acquisition and emergence for a learner.

What does that mean? After reading Will Richardson’s article “World Without Walls: Learning Well with Others” and George Siemens’ Knowing Knowledge “An Exploration of Theoretical Views of Knowing and Learning,” I am beginning to see the view of knowledge acquisition in a new way—Siemens’ theory of connectivism.

Frankly, I haven’t been actively thinking about how knowledge is structured and gathered. After eleven years of teaching, sometimes you just do what you know is best to improve the skills of your students. When you think about education today, so much is based upon standardized tests and content knowledge and skills. We have overlooked the whole experience of gaining knowledge. Much of the time we are forced to look at the end product—the proof of learning. The process of gathering and finding and validating and judging and changing obtained knowledge through connecting with new knowledge has not been a priority in state and national assessments; yet, it is vital for fostering the development of the lifelong learner. I know New Hampshire, the nation for that matter, is venturing into a digital portfolio approach to assessment and learning, but I have yet to see it be addressed in most schools—as many of us don’t have a platform to work with.

Siemens reminds us that “it’s the pipe that matters not only the content.” He continues with “‘Know(ing) where’ and ‘know(ing) who’ are more important today than knowing what and how. An information rich world requires the ability to first determine what is important, and then how to stay connected and informed as information changes.”

As I continue to explore my RSS reader, I am finding several educators that are reminding themselves and, in essence, their readers to continually evaluate and question the knowledge, the networks, and the tools that we use. They remind us to approach this web 2.0 learning environment with the notion that things are always changing. What works one day may not be the tool we need for the next day.

I have added Tech Thoughts by Jen to my reader (as someone I was following had been following her); and besides the teaching ideas she expresses, she (as have several other bloggers) reflects upon the challenges of keeping current and knowing what connections to make that are most worth while. Even with the blogs we have added for this class, I am finding that some of them are not meeting my needs and could probably be removed; however, I’ll give it more time before I dismiss them.

I have included the diagram below from Siemens’ Knowing Knowledge as a reminder of how he frames the process of connectivism.

I think about where I fit into this diagram, and then I remember the notion of being co creators. “The learner is the teacher is the learner;” Siemens’ complex webbing of knowledge is mystifying yet right at our fingertips. Now, to grasp it with our minds is the challenge, especially as we attempt less traditional approaches with our students. It certainly brings differentiation to an obtainable level.
In the whole of this Connectivist approach to connecting with knowledge, we cannot overlook the personal connections as well. As teachers we are not only concerned about the concepts and the conduit of knowledge for our students, we are still helping our students develop filters (values, beliefs, perspective). Our role is very complicated to begin with, but as we transform our role into that of a connector, we need to be aware of our students’ limitations and susceptibility to being mislead and/or misunderstood.

Memorable passages from the reading of Siemens’ Knowing Knowledge “An Exploration of Theoretical Views of Knowing and Learning” (24-48):

  • Seed, Select, and Amplify. Test many diverse options, and reinforce the winners. Experiment, don’t plan. Chris Meyer and Stan Davis36
  • Connectivism is the integration of principles explored by chaos37, network, complexity38, and self-organization39 theories.
  • Not all learning (or cognitive activity) is logical.
  • Additionally, it is important to acknowledge that learning is much more than exposure to content. Social, community, and collaborative approaches to learning are important.
  • To be adaptive is to be perpetually current.

I must admit that it is not often that you are able to take a college course that actually practices what it preaches. In PSU’s graduate course Teaching and Learning in the Networked Classroom taught by Jeff Utecht and Kim Tufts (TA), I have seen a total embrace of Siemens’ “Connectivism [as being] driven by the understanding that decisions are based on rapidly altering foundations.” Though the general overview with a syllabus has been presented to course participants, it has been made quite clear that the weekly readings and blog prompts and other activities may be changed with the influx of ever developing information and knowledge. “In today’s world, knowledge life is short; it survives only a short period of time before it is outdated”-Siemens.

With the help of my PLNs and my desire to achieve, I will become a connector in this interdependent ecosystem.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Question Authority

I want to do Wikified Research papers with my student. Before reading The Fischbowl article, I had never heard of such a thing. How engaging! How fresh for student and teacher alike. There are so many possibilities for our students in the use of the technology that we have available; yet, we are restricted as educators in what we are allowed to expose them to.

I teach seventh graders. They are twelve and thirteen-years-old. Can they contribute to a Wiki? No. Do I need to find another job teaching older students, or can I give this rich experience to the current students I love working with?

There is so much available out there that will help us embrace technology standards, but we are restricted from many of the tools that are available in the "real world." I understand the dangers of some of the social networks out there, but we, as educators, are unable to educate our students on these tools by creating our own secure wikis. There needs to be an answer that allows us to develop our students' technology skills and knowledge, connects us to the rest of the world in a common format, and is free.

Shouldn’t we be teaching our students to use the tools out there as early as we can? Is it fair to our students, their future, and our society’s development to hold them back from using educational tools until they are “of age” in the classroom?

I know the loopholes, but how ethical is it to use them? And how easy is it to persuade my 75 students’ parents that granting permission for their child to participate in this online activity is safe when the government has laws prohibiting it?

This frustrates me. Is the US government going to continue allowing our students to be limited when many of the other countries in the world are educating their children with few "CIPA" regulations.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Something that motivated me....

I made a comment on Will Richardson's “World Without Walls: Learning Well with Others” article. It may or may not be accepted, but I have copied it here:

"But it does suggest that we as educators need to reconsider our roles in students' lives, to think of ourselves as connectors first and content experts second."

This role's title is what we should all be striving for. To gain such a title through the use of the seemingly ever dwindling technology in my school district seems to be the challenge. My seventh graders are ready the tools are not there. Legislation (my students are 12 and 13), budgets, and school politics are the challenge. Why is it that those issues shadow the best for our kids?

Despite the obstacles, to become a connector in the world of web 2.0 is my goal for this year. Thank you for framing this for me.

It's been a trying school year in my school's access to the technology some take for granted. However, after posting my blog post a few moments ago, I scrolled to the inspirational thoughts at the bottom of my blog and linked to "The Don't Quit Poem" slideshow. It made me feel better. Perhpas you need it now too. The Don't Quit Poem it's just a click away.