Saturday, October 27, 2007

Navel gazing reflection

Derek Wenmoth gave a k12Online2007 keynote entitled: Holding a Mirror to our Professional Practice
in which he challenges us to reflect not only inward (navel gazing - a great term!) but outward thinking critically how our use of technology augments the objectives.
Towards the end of this engaging keynote he asks us to consider several questions:
What are the mirrors you are holding to your practice?
Who are the mentors to whom you relate?
What professional reading do you do?
To which communities of practice do you belong?
Where do you record your ideas and reflections?
To which rss feeds do you subscribe?
When did you last visit someone else's classroom to observe?
When did you last present at a workshop and expose yourself to the scrutiny of others?
I can answer all but one, as whenever I enter a colleague's room, they stop teaching. I, however, am observed every class I teach. This is something on which I need to work..
If you have not yet enjoyed Derek's presentation, I urge you to do so now. Perhaps then drop by the When Night Falls session in is happening for five more hours.
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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Effective Pedagogy

I read recently that good teaching results in learning. I have to disagree. The best lessons can result in zero learning if they meet with unreceptive students. I am only one teacher that sees some students for only 40 minutes per week. If they come to the room without being ready to learn, there is little I can do to affect their attitude.
Good pedagogy must consider several measures in instruction: the intelligence quotient, the emotional quotient, the adversity quotient, and the spiritual quotient.
In schools we do a great job of considering the intelligence quotient and the emotional quotient. Expanding our vision of pedagogy will enable us to consider other crucial elements.
The adversity quotient measures the tenacity of learners in difficult situations. This principle, laid out by Paul Stoltz (1997) is described in James 1:2-4. In other words, are learners challenged to work in their zone of proximal development? Am I creating a state of disequilibrium for learners? Are members of the learning community tenacious in the face of failure? I can augment learners AQ through challenging activities that create disequilibrium and require persistance in order to learn from failure. Too many learners in K-12 come into my classroom expecting to be spoon fed correct answers, to always win, and me to be a tradional teacher. Sorry 'bout their luck. I expect all learners to fail, learn from mistakes, create their own learning, and that I will learn at the same time they do!
The life of the Spirit, or a students' spiritual quotient, must also be considered when designing effective instruction. Learners awareness of and response to the Holy Spirit as their plumb line does not stop at the church door. God espouses growth of character. Ethics seem to be lacking in so many K-12 learners. It would appear that this vital element for successful communication, collaboration, & connection would be up to those in the school (i.e. me).
Many would say this is not a concern in a US public school. I would challenge you on that! I have seen a mighty demonstration of His power through learners who had a high SQ in public school. I could only model this and not teach it directly in public school, yet He is faithful. Ask me sometime how public school learners prayed for me when I could not and how He answered those prayers!
Stoltz, Paul (1997). Adversity quotient: Turning obstacles into opportunities. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

We are all Learners...

In my classrooms I have been referring to myself as a learner, on equal footing with all learners in my classrooms. Many of the learners continue to struggle with this distinction, insisting I am a teacher. I continue to insist I am not, I am not in charge of their learning. Their difficulties appear to stem from the switch they must make as they enter and leave my classroom.
Sylvia Martinez quotes Seymour Papert in her k12online2007 presentation as saying:

What we need is kinds of activity in the classroom where the teacher is learning at the same time as the kids and with the kids. Unless you do that, you'll never get out of the bind of what the teachers can do limited by what they were taught to do when they went to school.

This is the climate I have been trying to foster. Sylvia's presentation is well worth watching for this very reason, as well as her obvious professionalism. My struggles to create a SWAT team is exactly what she addresses! I'm using the acronym SWAT and her presentation uses SST. The foundation is the same. The adults learn from the students. Or restated, we are all learners.
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Monday, October 22, 2007

Another @@@#@%@ Meme


1. You are to copy the rules at the start of your post.

2. You are write, in 150 words or less the story of ‘Your Inspirational Teacher’ from your school days.

3. Name and link 4 other bloggers and leave them a comment on their blog to let them know they have been tagged.

4. Tag your post ‘myinspiration’

Here: I have no inspirational teacher (I did, but I want Simon to suffer).

4 Bloggers: (top four in twitter this morning)

Lisa Parisi

Susan Sedro

Simon Brown

Dianne Krause

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It's a small world after all....

Julie Lindsay & Vicki Davis are doing it again! They have organised a global project centered around Dan Pink's "A Whole New Mind". It is named The Flat Classroom Project and involves seven schools and over one hundred students. I look forward to the projects created by these students, as their work is authentic, for global eyes, and peer reviewed. The best part? The students involved know it and do superior work!
In anticipation of this project I question how the concept of the flat world and all it conjures resonate with where you are as a learner? Like anything, we can internalise an idea and build new experiences/ new spins but where does the concept lead you.
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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Deepen the Conversation

The learners in my courses have entered the conversation. There were technological hurdles, there were log-on issues, there were navigation problems, and all sorts of Plan B's upon which I relied. But now, the conversation really begins.
Many learners are just discovering that they are really in charge of their learning. I no longer give word limits, one correct answer requirements, or multiple choice questions. My QARs (Question Answer Relationships) are not "Right There" but are "On Your Own". This is disconcerting to some, disorienting to several.
Educators have for so long, and the majority continue this, approached education as sages on individual stages. I am not a sage and not even a guide on the side. I am merely a learner in the classes assigned to me. As all learners awaken to the veracity of this, they begin to deepen those conversations.
Increasing the depth of our conversations will augment our metacognition. This is a desirable objective for not only the study skills class but also for all learners who will enter society in the future.
How do we facilitate the formation of depth? One way all of you can help us is by going to the class blogs and commenting. If you are a learner, you qualify.
Another way, I think, is constantly providing challenging projects. Providing global projects and not seeking traditional offline pieces of paper are other ways. Remember tweens and teens spend hours playing video games that are difficult and they do not win. This generation of middle school learners really enjoy multi-player games and do not realise the learning that is taking place, nor do they need to recognise this learning.
Friday afternoon the middle school gaming club got together to play with the flight simulator and some online multiplayer games. I didn't get to challenge because my lack of knowledge was needed to assist everyone to use the games. I would have died quickly anyway. They don't know it, but they were deepening the conversation, taking it in directions others do not expect and with which they may not be comfortable .
Help me to deepen the conversations with all learners.
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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Getting in the Flow

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi theorized that when a person is in a mental state that fully immerses them in what they are doing, they are in flow. A state of flow is characterised by a feeling of energised focus, when one has a distorted sense of time and lacks self consciousness.
I was so in flow this morning while working on the study skills blog that I almost forgot to get ready for work. I encourage the middle school students to immerse themselves in flow in order to augment work quality.
If we all could enter that flow not only when playing video games, as James Paul Gee suggests, but when learning any skill or strategy, I think our learning would be more effectual. If we could facilitate this flow for learners in our schools, we could ..... oh my!
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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Games People Play...

This Friday my school has an early dismissal, presumably to allow teachers time to figure and record grades. I will play games.
Shocking, coming from an old Mennonite woman. I love to shock people, it's so much fun!
A bunch of middle school boys are gathering after early dismissal, signed permission slips in hand, in the computer lab to play with Flight Simulator and a multi-player football game.
Readers remember I read James Paul Gee this summer. Turns out 85% of games sold last year were rated 'E', 'E+10' or 'T', translating to 'Everyone', 'Everyone ages 10 & up' or 'Teen'. Statistics also show teen violence has dropped at the same time video games have become more popular.
I can observe how middle school boys learn by watching them play games Friday afternoon. Only one has played the multi-player games we will be using and none have played with the Flight Simulator, so there will be bunches to learn. I hope they all remember their joysticks!
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Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog Action Day October 15, 2007

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day

How do I personally contribute towards taking care of our environment? I live with less. I intentionally use only what I need. I find I really need very little. The money not used for my support is clear then for me to give away. Do what? Yes, that's right, give away. The more I can save monthly, the more I can give to people who really need it.
I do have several missions which receive monthly. I have a sponsor child in Brazil. I donate to my school. Some say I must be touched. I thank God He put me here to help others in these ways.
I can't do much to help protect our environment. But if everyone did just a little bit, then a lot would be accomplished.
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Friday, October 12, 2007


Today's learners are best described as:

  • multiprocessers
  • multimedia literate
  • knowledge constructionists/connectionists
  • visionaries who act on their visions
  • connected 24/7
  • impatient with delays
In other words, today's learners are a new breed. I see myself in that list, bolstering my idea that I am not a digital immigrant, but an illegal digital alien. How many things are you doing right now? The learners in my school agree that they do five things at once and so do I.
Are school classes need to recognise this. We need to stop viewing new technologies as bad things that have no educational value. A teacher told me yesterday that there was no educational use for iPods. Oh my. Even if learners only listen to music while writing, research backs that up. As I write this, I am listening to podcasts, checking twitter, ignoring my RSS, making last minute changes to lesson plans posted on the blogs, checking email, and drinking coffee.
As Warlick alludes, the boundaries are now not clearly delineated. Education is not linear any longer. Education is looped, networked, global, outside the box. Our classrooms in k12 need to reflect the way all learners learn best. Oh, btw, there is a reason to use a laptop in school. I've heard the opposite in my school - really.
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Reference: Conole, G. (2007, October 11). Digital Kids. Retrieved October 12, 2007 from

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Another Geek Night!

Like Janetta Garton had on Tuesday, I had another geek out evening on Wednesday! First I went to see the coolcat in her Ustream, then arthus bridged a skypeconference call with Ustream, followed by Teachers Teaching Teachers webcast at edtechtalk. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I also got nothing done which I had planned to do. Kristin also streamed a show where she and Vicki interviewed arthus. It is a must see.
I am thoroughly impressed, though not really surprised, that a 14 year old student accomplished what Will was unable to do. I'm not sure how he feels about that, but I think it is pretty cool, a sign of the times, and a red flag to us all. The frantically waving red flag is a warning. This generation is indeed powering down for school and powering up to learn after school. Teachers have got to get with the program now or be outdated. I for one don't want to be outdated.
We all need to integrate these tools into our classrooms right now, without delay!
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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Own the Learning

Chris Lehman and some learners at his school got together today to produce a Ustream. One of the big ideas they shared was that one owns the learning more when one produces a project than when one regurgitates on a test. This truth speaks volumes to all of us, especially since it is the learners themselves who are speaking.
The new tools are cool and fun. But the big payoff is whether using these new tools grabs the attention of disinterested learners. The same content needs to be conveyed via these new tools. Getting all learners, both adults and others, on board successfully using these new tools is the first big challenge. I make no secret that I do not have expertise in all these great new tools.
Many educators feel they are experts in their classrooms and are in charge of the learning that takes place there. I reminded a class today that they are in charge of their own learning. It is up to each one of them to do their work as unto the Lord. I had a young lady ask me how many sentences I required on the challenge with which I presented them. I answered her by replying that she was in charge of her learning, I was not. I merely facilitate the learning, I continually assess learning, I differentiate for learning, and I keep a tally (commonly called grades) of learning. I think she wanted me to be somebody I am not.
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Monday, October 8, 2007

Are we listening?

Which stories define us? To whom do we listen? What messages shape our values and influence our decisions? When we finish pondering these answers for ourselves, we need to ponder the answers for all learners.
I just viewed a fantastic preconference keynote by David Warlick. There is a live, active chat to accompany it. His metaphor of the airport is fully supported by his presentation, although he doesn't spell it out, nor should he.
He talks about new boundaries for learning, but are we listening? We all need to equip today's learners with the skills and strategies they will need in order to live successful lives in the 21st century. The best way to predict the future is to invent it (Kay, 1971). We are in the position now to invent that future, to define new boundaries.
William Gibson once said, The future is here. It's just not widely distributed yet. I could contend that the future IS widely distributed and we must incorporate it or be quickly outdated .
Incorporating the ISTE standards may be a place to begin. I 'teach' computer and assert that I need to work myself out of a job if I am indeed doing my job. Digital literacies ideally should be fully integrated into every class we offer. That canon of information cannot be contained in hardbound copies any longer, but is dynamic, transformative, online, and transient.
Are you listening?
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Saturday, October 6, 2007

Stifling our learners' voices

Many IT departments in the USA are currently tightening control over learners' abilities to access specific internet sites. The tightening noose frustrates many of us who are trying to integrate these sites into our classrooms.
The all powerful IT departments are no longer keeping us connected but censoring where we go. This can have the good intention of keeping kids safe but ...
This current censorship seems very much like we are on the receiving end of IT departments' fears. When people are afraid they historically tighten control. Wars begin this way. Sometimes our fears are well-founded, like when a child reaches out for a hot stove-we all tighten control to prevent injury.
It does seems IT departments today are tightening control. Could they be afraid of losing control? It is too late for that, they just haven't realised that yet.
Let's think about this. Learners' today have expensive phones and/or iPods with them 24/7. They can connect to the internet instantly outside of the school's control. They can listen to podcasts of whatever they downloaded outside of the school's control.
Tightening control is not going to work. The IT departments have already lost control. So where do we go from here?
School's need to be teaching effective digital citizenship. We need to desperately teach current learner's how to safely navigate, how to ethically communicate, how to globally connect. Major corporations like Xerox, IBM, & 3M require employees to be digitally literate. We need to facilitate this or our graduates will be handicapped.
Kelly Christopherson writes on this topic. I recommend you both read him and blog your own thoughts. Enter the conversation, be counted, impact collective knowledge.
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Thursday, October 4, 2007

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Direct Instructional Model

I was trained to write lesson plans using the Madeline Hunter format. I have been recently informed I will be observed using this criteria. This worries me, because I do not use direct instruction in my classrooms.
I believe that knowledge is best constructed by the learner. Learners in our classrooms are not empty vessels for us to fill with knowledge. Yet whether I daily spell out objectives and formative assessments appear to mean more than whether students are capable at 21st century skills. I guess I will fail this too. I failed kindergarten - no, really I did!
What is important then and should there be a formalised, generalised, lesson plan format that we all must follow? I am much to chaotic to go for that. Our brains are too. Our brains are like could the best Hunter lesson plan impose order on that, let alone engage any brain? Kids power down to attend school as it is....
I may be knocking on your door looking for a hand out soon....
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Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Incredible Experiences....

How far have I traveled in the last few minutes? I was just conversing with people around the USA and Canada as a class of preservice teachers with Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach listened.
Now I find myself down under listening to a presentation at a conference there. How many miles have I traveled? Well, really, zero. I am sitting the whole time in my desk chair at my desk in my apartment in Northeast USA.
We live in incredible times. Earlier today, learners in my classes exchanged comments with others in Wales, Australia, & another state. Yes, it is an incredible world with those wrinkles scrunching up to touch each other in unexpected places.
If audio can span the miles easily now, why not video? Truth is, it can. The timezones are the main thing to overcome.
How many miles have you traveled today?
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