Archive for July 2008

Carrotmob and the Power of the People

July 20, 2008

Thanks to Dean Shareski’s post I am now familiar with Carrotmob, and I must say, I am extremely impressed with the intent of the group (and the thought behind it).

Take a couple of minutes (10 actually) and watch the video below.

I am a big fan of this idea… mobilizing the people to make a change that can benefit us all (and I found the video quite entertaining).

If I were a history teacher I think I might want to share this video clip with my students when we discuss the Civil Rights Movement, boycotts, sit-ins, etc. as another example of how organized people can make a difference in a non-violent ways.

Great concept… just thought I would share with all of you!  Working together we can affect change.

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts.



July 14, 2008

Yesterday I posted about three Irving teachers who are visiting and working in Kenya this summer, and yesterday I received an e-mail from Darren who shared a student blog with me.

Anastacia Njoki is a student at the Made in the Streets school in Narobi, Kenya, where the “Irving Three” are working.  She is a “newbie” at blogging and would love some comments from people outside of Africa.  She is doing a great job so far, so please give her some encouragement to continue… she wants to be a journalist, so she needs to practice her writing.

You can find her blog here

Perhaps we can’t all travel to Africa, but we can support and encourage education from wherever we are on the planet… such is the power of the Internet and the connections we make.

Irving Three: Expanding Our Minds in Kenya

July 13, 2008

Three educators from Irving ISD (with the help and support of South MacArthur Church of Christ) will be spending a portion of their summer in Narobi, Kenya, helping to set up a networked computer lab (among other things) for the students of Made in the Streets.

After reading their recent posts, it seems that all three made it to Kenya safely (although missing some luggage).

If you are unfamiliar with “the three,” Darren is a webmastering teacher at The Academy of IrvingJerram is an Instructional Technology Coordinator for Irving ISD, and Emily is Jerram’s wife and new teacher to Lamar Middle School (I think).

The three left with some hardware (digital cameras, iPods, Wii, mics, etc.) and a 500 GB hard drive full of instructional materials created by students and teachers from The Academy (and Brown Elementary… again, I think).

The goal is to make some connections with the students and teachers and network the computer lab so the instructional materials created will be easily accessible by all of the students… Internet is not an option at the moment, so the learning materials and open-source software will be the staple of the students’ learning with technology until next year when another group of volunteers can attend.

I am sure the group would appreciate your support and comments while they are away from home, so add them to your feed reader and follow along with their journey.

Pure Rubbish…

July 8, 2008

Rarely does an educational article/editorial get published where I disagree with 100% of the author’s points, but First Person: School Facilitators Flunk the Test (as published in the Seattle Post) seems to fit this criteria… and quite frankly, the article and its comments just make me sad.

The author begins his piece by asserting his qualifications for writing the article and his tone comes across as bitter and exaggerative.

“Ban facilitators, the word and all its forms, and put on probation anyone caught in a classroom still claiming to be one. Re-establish the traditional teacher-centered classroom, and soon we won’t need a WASL to demonstrate progress.”

Well, I guess I should take back my statement that I disagree with 100% of what the author says; I do agree that we do not need standardized tests to demonstrate progress because they are artificial and too often test knowledge that is unnecessary out of the walls of high school. I would rather see a portfolio-based system… and yes, I would facilitate the creation, organization  and evaluations of these portfolios.

“To inculcate discipline in others, a leader must model excellence and self-discipline. Traditional teacher-centered classrooms had such leaders. By contrast, student-centered learning allows the inexperienced and the undisciplined to become the standard.”

Certainly, a leader must set a good example, and in a student-centered classroom, the teacher is still involved and still leading the class.  The difference is that instead of sitting and listening to the teacher lecture and treat the students as empty receptacles in which to pour in learning, the teacher focuses on individual student needs and abilities; the students are encouraged to take an active role in their education instead of a passive one.  Students are allowed to learn on their own (through discovery, inquiry, etc.), from each other and from the teacher.

“Instead of turning to a traditional subject-expert in a teacher-centered environment, students now turn to their friends.”

Yes, the student can turn to their friends for assistance, or the teacher, or a book, the Internet or a host of other resources… again actively searching out the answer instead of waiting for the teacher to give it to them (or tell them that their response is wrong).

“When teenage minds become convinced they know as much as or more than the adults in charge, contempt for authority is the blatant byproduct.”

I don’t understand the author’s use of this argument. How does a student-centered classroom convince students that they know as much or more than adults? Is it simply because as the teacher I am not continually lording my knowledge over them but encouraging them to think and reason on their own?

“Most real learning requires real work. No one ever became an expert by being lazy.”

Yes, REAL learning does require work, and as any student who participates in a student-centered or project-based environment will tell you… actively be engaged in your education is much more difficult than letting the teacher make all of your decisions. Creating a quality project requires much more time and effort than taking a test.

“Facilitators are too wimpy, too passive to push anything or anyone.”

I don’t understand where the author gets his view of facilitators. A facilitator is active by definition. The facilitator’s job is to push learning, to guide by questioning and to direct students to resources as needed. Facilitators do not just sit in the room and watch as students do whatever they feel like doing whenever they want.

So, after reading this depressing opinion piece, I decided to skip down and read a few comments and was completely flabbergasted when I came across some of the statements people made.

“They [students] are ENCOURAGED to talk to each other.” – OMG! NO! Students are encourage to talk to each other. Next they might be encouraged to HELP each other.

“When I was in school we worked on a page of math problems by ourselves.” – And how has that prepared you for life outside of school?

“‘Everyday Math’ (a math textbook used by many elementary schools) tells 4th grade teachers not to spend too much time teaching long division because students can just reach for a calculator.” – Maybe I am missing something… are students growing up in a world where there are no calculators, computers, dictionaries, spell check? Shouldn’t we be teaching them to use these tools to solve problems?

If learning is going to be real and lasting, there has to be a mix. Teachers have classes of 30 students or so and those students learn best in a variety of ways – some from lectures, some hands-one, some by reading, etc. Teachers have to vary activities and allows students to make some choice for themselves. Yes, you are their teacher and your job is to help them learn, but they are not stupid… give them some credit and let them take part in their own education.

We need to get away from the mindset that because I was taught something a certain way, that it is the best way for everyone to learn… it isn’t.  I “learned” vocabulary in school by looking up the definition and writing it, but I actually learned it as I needed it in my own writing to convey a certain feeling or point, or when I read and didn’t know what something meant. I “learned” percentages when I completed math worksheets, but I actually learned it when it meant something to me – figuring sales tax, how much to tip a waiter or the discount on a sale item.  If we are honest with ourselves, true education and learning rarely comes from a teacher-centered environment, it comes from trying and failing, discovery, inquiry, reflection, creating and collaborating.

Instructional Technology Coordinator in Irving ISD

July 7, 2008

Irving ISD just posted a position for an Instructional Technology Coordinator.  If you are interested in the position, check out the qualifications and salary schedule.

Before you apply, you should know that Irving ISD is very innovative with its technology implementation program (i.e. one-to one laptops at all four high schools).  Although not fully up-to-date, you can check out more about the one-to-one program here.

If you meet the qualifications and are interested in the positions, then I encourage you to apply! We can always use more knowledgeable and passionate people in our school district.

Reflections on the 2008 National Educational Computing Conference

July 7, 2008

It has been a few days since I returned home from the 2008 NECC conference in San Antonio, Texas, and I am just getting around to posting my reflections. I wanted to give myself a chance to think and process on what I learned before writing about it.

So, to begin, this was my first NECC conference (my school district will not pay for conferences out of state). I have attended the TCEA conference on several occasions, and, in my opinion, NECC is a vast improvement. Although TCEA is a great conference for many, I am sure, it seems to lack rigor for me. When I have attended in the past, I have not come away with many “new” ideas or tools. That being said, I did not learn a whole lot of new information at NECC either, but I did get the chance to hear from educators around the world and developed some ideas for professional development and teaching that I don’t think I would have come up with otherwise.

There were several presentations that I thoroughly enjoyed…

My favorite session was presented by Chris Lehmann, principal of the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia.  He began the session by asking the question, “What is the purpose of school?” He answered the question and then focused his session around the tenets of the book Understanding by Design. Mr. Lehmann is an outstanding presenter; he is passionate and dynamic and held my interest for the whole of the session (which is difficult to do).  I have since ordered Understanding by Design and plan on adding it to my summer reading list and hopefully incorporating some of the ideas into next school year’s professional development.

I would greatly suggest checking out the USTREAM of the session as well as the session’s wiki.

I also enjoyed Stephanie Sandifer’s session on Marzano and Web 2.0. I came away with some more ideas for professional development.  Stephanie has put together a rather extensive wiki with information about Marzano and how to effectively implement web 2.0.  I suggest giving it a look. You might also want to check out the presentation on USTREAM

The final session I attended was led by a pretty impressive panel who focused their presentation around “virtual” and collaborative professional development such as the K12 Online Conference. I particularly enjoyed that the panel illustrated what they discussed by including a panel member who was Skyped in. Check out the USTREAM of the session to learn more. After attending, I am excited for the 2008 conference to begin, and I have some new ideas for getting my staff excited about participating.

So, all in all, I was impressed with my time at NECC.  I was excited that a large portion of the sessions focused on pedagogy and professional development and not merely Web 2.0 (or other tools). I was excited to meet and talk with so many educators who are passionate about student learning, education and technology. It was interesting to get some perspectives from educators from outside of the state and to hear that educators struggle with the same issues around the world (and then to hear what they do to surmount these obstacles to education).  It was also refreshing to be around so many educators who share many of the same philosophies towards education and technology.

Next year’s NECC is supposed to take place in Washington, D.C., and if I am lucky I will be able to figure out a way to attend.

NECC 2008 – Day Three – Session One

July 2, 2008

Session One: The Magic of Digital: Collaborative Interaction in Teacher Professional Development

  • What is K12 Online? A conference by educators for educators; entirely held on-line; 3rd year of session begins in October 2008; live event as well as pre-created; conference on-going – last two years sessions are archived; all sessions are free
  • Bud Hunt – last year’s keynote done from car and porch and done a month in advance
  • Bud’s school district put together a Moodle course that basically reviewed the K12 On-line Conference – teacher’s got professional development credit and it help spark social interactions; acted as a springboard to get discussions going
  • What are the benefits of Professional Development that is global and anytime, anywhere? We will perpetuate what we know (whether good or bad); it is good to see that educators around the world deal with the same issues
  • UStream of conference can be found on Wesley Fryer’s channel
  • Eye-opening to teachers when conference speakers were Skyped in instead of in person – we are no longer confined to the space in which we live to find experts
  • Jeff Utecht – How did the K12 affect learning on your campus? With your students? Sent e-mail to all of the international schools in Shanghai, and set up four Saturday morning viewing sessions, pot-luck get together, watched keynote for the strand and discussed and then for 1 1/2 hours participants viewed sessions of their choice, then gathered back together and discussed (podcasted and posted for all to access); also set up opportunity for people around the world to get graduate credit
  • Learning should not be “bounded by the bell” – from EducBloggerCon discussion
  • Live events – Why are live events (Fireside Chats and When Night Falls) important?  Deepens the learning and fosters discussions across the globe; get inside the minds and hearts of presenters; opportunity to talk with people with perspectives and experiences very different from our own – Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach
  • K12 On-line 2007 When Night Falls Flickr photostream
  • “Sustained discussions over time change us.” – Wesley Fryer
  • What is the big deal with K12 On-line? It is all about facilitating personal connections, international/global collaborative projects – Darren Kuropatwa
  • Brian Grenier – Worked on the professional development committee; found a way to allow teachers to get professional development for participating in K12; How has K12 personally influenced you? First experience with on-line conference and first experience with blended learning; had close to 500 teachers who participated in K12 in El Paso school district
  • “None of us are as good as all of us.” – Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach
  • 4 strands with 9 presentations and 1 keynote
  • Strands (Getting started, Prove it, Kicking it up a Notch, Leadership)
  • July 11th is the last day to submit a proposal for the 2008 K12 On-line Conference – presenters encourage YOU to submit a proposal
  • Sometimes is looking at the content and for others the learning is in the collaboration and connections
  • Clarence Fisher – How is the K12 conference about student learning?  Student learning often needs to start with teacher learning; had students find his presentation on-line and followed comments on the blog; students enjoyed seeing him do something that he expects them to do
  • With learning “time is now the variable and not the constant.” – Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach

After this session, I am excited about the prospect of participating in the K12 On-line Conference again this year, and I hope to “see” you there as well!