Saturday, January 31, 2009
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
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
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.)
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
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.
Yet, I haven't spent the time to fully understand the resources Delicious and Diigo. I ass.u.me 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!
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?
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
So, for my coworker visitors, watch on! Such great potential for us all!
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
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
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
"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.
I appreciate his identification of this shift in learning: “For educators and the schools in which they teach, the challenges of this moment are significant. Our ability to learn whatever we want, whenever we want, from whomever we want is rendering the linear, age-grouped, teacher-guided curriculum less and less relevant.” Richardson identifies the richness of blogging. Blogs allow us to learn whatever and whenever from whomever. The web log of my mind has evolved into a clear understanding of a blog.
A blog is much more powerful than a web log. Blogging for the past month has empowered me with the notion that perhaps even my thoughts may care weight, may insight change, and may simply influence others. I may even be a “connector.”
(Of course that’s if I can get over my bla’s.)
Thursday, January 1, 2009
"The young do not know enough to be prudent, and therefore they attempt the impossible -- and achieve it, generation after generation." - Pearl S. Buck
It made me smile, because at age 36 I still feel young (because I am of course but don't always feel it). I'm beginning to become more and more prudent as I begin to delve deeper into the school politics that have been emerging within the past few years. This quote reminds me that my prudence, though professionally essential in some aspects, shouldn't hinder my attempts at the "impossible." If I, if we, don't take those risks or reach that dissonance, success in our passions as teachers to provide the most for our students will fail. Hence our students will not be cultivated into the young that are willing to "attempt the impossible and achieve it." We're role models. Attempt the seemingly "impossible."