Friday, November 30, 2007

Back to the Future

Dr. Kevin Star, a state Librarian Emeritus in California, expounds on NPR that for most of history humans have been illiterate & for most of our history very few people read. Literate culture is a rather new revolution in human history. Therefore he says, what do we do about the declining amount of reading?
A classic education used to nclude the canon, but it has recently gone out of favor. Standardized scores do not show lower performance or success in life but overall students are reading only one-third the books read in the 1930s. Literary reading includes this canon.
The scores show that tweens and beyond read less and less well. This affects comprehension levels so it affects what I do in the classroom every day. Reading has become a middle-class activity. Do we really want an elite class that can read making laws for the less elite class which is illiterate? Sounds very dangerous.
Dana Gioia, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, reports that one out of three Americans drop out of high school, yet employers list reading ability as the major problem with new hires. Reading ability directly affects the ability to learn. Yet the ability to learn is a 21st century skill. It is imperative to this generation's success in life that an ability to learn be inculcated. Alvin Toffler is often quoted as saying, "The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”
The mere presence of books directly affects success in school. The new report reviewed in this NPR podcast reports reading on the internet is not equivalent. I must take exception and say it can be. It has to do with flow. If one enters and sustains flow while reading a book or while reading internet information is the same. If only scanning bullet points or reading short IMs, then they have a valid point. But reading of articles on reflective blogs or journals is what one does when reading a print book. Where it is published is not the point.
The point is the kinds of reading material has shifted in American society. Has this same shift happened in other cultures and are these other cultures affected by a shift to a less literate, employable, or successful people?
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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Collective Intelligence

Speaking at MIT, Thomas Malone recently defined collective intelligence as a group of literate people acting together. A rather unsatisfying definition, but he assures the audience they know it when they see it.
Sandy Pentland asserts groups make us smarter. Looking at patterns of communication helps us decipher if these patterns are intelligent or swayed by bias. Thomas Malone calls this an organizational microscope.
Karim Lakhani says people can self-organise and solve tough problems. This community dynamic so intrigued him that he changed his focus to it.
Self - participation of the community members puzzled him since it was done using opensource software for no pay. Why it is puzzling that anyone is intrinsically motivated rather than extrinsically is to me puzzling. The notions of how companies have traditionally worked is thus changing.
Applying these thoughts to education can propel learners into the conversations where learning through reflection and consensus happen. Education is not filling learners up with knowledge or a proficient demonstration on a multiple choice test. A valuable education insists the learner critically thinks with the materials at hand, communicating effectively with the group, connecting through commonalities, through and across groups, and collaborating with groups to form a deeper knowledge than would be possible without the group. These men would have referred to the deeper knowledge as collective intelligence.
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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Provocative Discourse

While the main aim for lifelong learners appears to be entering the conversation, it seems that digital natives or not, these learners lack a lot of basic skills. I find myself focusing on really basic things, like how to open a browser, how to use tabs instead of windows, keyboarding (which I am terrible at myself), remembering ones own usernames and passwords.
I'm doubting whether the duality of digital natives versus digital immigrants is even fitting. I myself am best described as an illegal alien in the digital world. Many of the teens with whom I speak are unfamiliar with the deep web, Skype, RSS, things that I consider mainstays. Are we doing this generation a disservice by assigning a label too soon?
If the learners in our rooms are expected to know more than they do and to learn digital survival skills more quickly, then yes, we are doing them a disservice. Fact remains, to be a successful citizen this generation will need to be comfortable using digital basic skills. Skills that I rarely see in the PreK through 12th grade learners in our school. Now, I'm not saying these learners are not smart - in fact they are brilliant! But they just don't possess those basic skills yet - maybe that is why our society has school in the first place.
So my main dilemma remains, how do I both equip these learners with the digital skills they need and engage them in conversations with other learners? Are the NETS standards enough?
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Monday, November 26, 2007

Make a Joyful Noise

Today I attended a homegoing celebration for Carrie. If there is one thing we will all remember about Carrie, it was she could make a joyful noise. I mean a LOUD noise. She made that LOUD noise everywhere!
She gave her entire being to service. The Carrie I knew was always thinking about the students. She wanted to learn all the skills I could teach her for the students. She knew she had a short time but it didn't stop her learning. That is an attitude after which I grasp.
So now Carrie is busy serving Him decorating (she was the Art teacher), & making a LOUD noise while doing it!
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Saturday, November 24, 2007

For Miguel

just because you asked..this is what I did...I was unable to record in anyway, though I would have preferred to record the session via Ustream...
As participants entered, they heard music and saw my Frappr on the front screen - thank you to everyone who placed your mugs on my Frappr - you are a visual representation of my learning network. My entire presentation is done from this wiki
I started with a brother leading prayer, then introduced myself and gave a short testimony. For me that is a defining moment in my life, when my existence on this planet hung in the balance and my friends were told literally to say goodbye. Lucky for you (now don't feel lucky?) I'm still here to annoy all of you!
Then I showed Darren's Paying Attention video - again all these resources are on the wiki.
I talked about how integration augments skills needed for success in reading, writing, math, & science. I discussed why we should bother to integrate. I said we are no longer sages on stages and moved off the stage. We all did a Think-Pair-Share a la Durff.
I talked about Multiple Intelligences as a vehicle for technology integration. I provided several examples, available on the wiki, and moved off that stage again. We all formed groups of 4 to 6 and integrated technology into unit plans using Bloom's Taxonomy and Multiple Intelligences.
I finished with Vicki Davis' Fear Factor video. I asked participants to create a podcast for me to share on the wiki, providing full instructions in the slide show. I have included two of those. I have also uploaded all the unit plans. While groups were working, I moved from group to group and gave them a green square if they were on task. Off-task groups got a red square. I was modeling what I do with K12 learners.
Well there you have it Miguel. What would I do differently? I would insist presenters and participants all have wireless access (gotta have that backchannel going). I would record via Ustream.
Did it go as well as I wanted? No. Could it have been better? Yes. That's the crux of it. Did I successfully ignite a conversation with participants? While they were in the room, yes. But when they left, that was it. Learning does not stop at the door of the classroom or the school, why do adults think it must stop at the door of the presentation? Are we all so inculcated into the industrial model that we can't break free? Where do we go from here?
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Future Schools

I just had a conversation with three other educators about the future of schools. It occurs to me that we just demonstrated what learning could be in schools. An interested group got together via Skype (we were not even in the same city) and talked about something of importance to us. We certainly were able to develop our thoughts, cement our convictions, share the possibilities through a Web2.0 technology. I learned much by listening to the others and they certainly learned how radical I am.
Extend this scenario to schools. Vicki Davis already has. An interested group gathers online, led by a facilitator (our facilitator was Kevin of Driving Questions - thank you!), and discusses a topic that is interesting to them. Now I am writing about it and somehow I think they are too. This is thinking. This is a skill we want to foster in all learners.
I have felt rather dry lately. Thank you to those in the conversation for spurring me back to thinking. For anyone who cares to know, Carrie's viewing is tomorrow and funeral is on Monday. Please continue in prayer for her family and friends.

Monday, November 19, 2007

In honor of Carrie

Today after lunch in the midst of afternoon workshops I was informed that Carrie went home to be with our Lord. She taught art at my school. She had registered to be here, sharing a room with me. Dianna told me and held me while I cried.
We all gathered this evening for prayer and decided to remain, as she would have wanted that. She was all about doing your work as unto the Lord. She herself worked this month, all the while dieing of cancer.
I will dedicate my work to her tomorrow, knowing I will cry. I do miss her.
There will be no recording, podcast, or Ustream here. ACSI is recording all sessions and selling CDs. Maybe it's best people will not see my tears or hear the cracks in my voice. The convention participants do not have wireless. This is a lesson in how not to run a conference.
I was going to write something coherent, but Carrie's sooner than expected return home interrupted all that. It is what I had prayed He would do for her, knowing she was in discomfort and had lived to see her grandson born.
Please join me in saying a prayer for her family as they deal with this at Thanksgiving time. My tag generator is at the blogmeister home, which will be offline for a while receiving a respite from its creator.


As many of you know, I am in Washington, DC at the ACSI Convention. I will be presenting tomorrow from this wiki Please feel free to offer me help! I am not positive anything will go my way, so if I at least have a laptop and projector I can present off my flash drive. If both computers can get to the internet, then there hopefully I can try Ustream on one and present with the other.
We will see. My priority is the participants in the room. I am not as proficient as the rest of the edublogsphere...
I was delighted to find this pearl in the RSS this morning and added it to my wiki! Check out Clay Burells's wiki on Digital Arts for Multiple Intelligences
If you see any broken links on my wiki, please hollar & scream at me so I fix it fast! Thank you, network!!
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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The new conversation

Learners are proficient at engaging in conversations. We all are proficient at F2F conversations. Learners need to be taught to have digital conversations. I gleaned this pearl while listening to Jeff Lebow's NEIT Unconference Unkeynote. Someone in the chatroom typed it too. A new thought that was an 'ah-ha!' moment for me.
Digital Conversations involve persistence, positive responses, give and take, as well as a sense of curiosity. The art of conversation is not innate but needs to be facilitated. I need to think of this skill and facilitate more digital conversations in the computer courses which I teach.
The elements of a good conversation are similar to a good story, having a beginning, a middle and an end. In a conversation there is a greeting and initial topic or conversation starter, the meat of the conversation, and a summation and closing. Reminding our learners of these required elements is challenging, especially as we near the holidays. Conversations include dialogue, not monologue, between learners, not learners and one teacher. Many learners whom I teach are still grappling with this. Most of their teachers, they report, are seeking teacher to learner interactions. When they step into my classroom they must deal with differing expectations.
I insist I am not a teacher, I am a learner. I don't cater to helpless handraising. I don't direct all learners to do A), B), & C). The answers to my questions are not 'right there' but 'on your own' (referring to QARs). I faciliate learner interactions with other learners, sometimes those who are literally on the other side of the globe. I emphasize communication, connections, and collaborations. I need to put digital conversations into the plan as well.
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Monday, November 12, 2007

As Good As It Gets

Full transparency Folks! To all of those laudatory people here is a dose of reality - welcome to my world!
First, someone called me to test audio on skype and they couldn't hear me. Seems I forgot to unmute the computer's sound. I did this not once, but twice in the same day. Sixth grade was rolling...
Then someone called me to test my skype video. It was blurry. I thought it was dropped. Evidently (it is appropriate to start roaring with laughter at this point, I did), the webcam has a focus that is the white dial on the front. Who knew? John Maklary knew - thank you! He set me straight and I am so relieved. So to all those people who think I'm anything....sorry 'bout your luck! I obviously know less than the average bear - and I am still integrating Web2.0 technology. What's your excuse?
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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Touch at a distance

After listening to this Radio Lab podcast, I am very intrigued by the description of sound as touch at a distance. Howard Gardner has described intelligence as multiple intelligences. One of those intelligences is musical intelligence.
Isn't it interesting that music is made up of sounds which are just touch at a distance. Could all the intelligences defined by Gardner really be an aspect of touch? Could touch be the real seat of intelligence?
Linguistic intelligence and logical-mathematical intelligence are generally considered not only those taught in schools but also those that occur within our minds. But even minds are resident within brains. Brains are gray matter connected by chemical processes. Even the rare brain disease I have is nothing more than a malformation that occurred because of chemicals. A touch that went wrong....
If this line of reasoning holds any water, we might be augmenting multiple intelligences by showing learners how to touch more effectively. There are currently nine intelligences. Nine ways of knowing.....through touch?
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Puzzling Patterns

Teachers have used prior knowledge to connect learners with things they already know with things learners need to learn. The world around us is made up of patterns which we recognise and use to hook into new concepts. James Paul Gee says:

Our experiences in the world build patterns in our mind, and then the mind shapes our experience of the world (and the actions we take in it), which in turn, reshapes our mind.

It is these patterns upon which I am to build in my classrooms. I do this via prior knowledge, setting up experiences which are familiar to learners and leading into ones that are not familiar.
One successful excursion into patterns has been into cartoon creation in 6th grade. These boys love cartoons (the familiar) and making their own. They did so on ToonDoo
and then learned how to embed the html code into their blogs (the unfamiliar). They practised creating content (Bloom's taxonomy), 21st century skills, and (gasp!) it was fun!
In 4th grade we estimated pumpkin seeds and then counted them (a Technospud Project). Next week, we will blog about the experiences we had with the Pumpkin as well as the praying mantis babies (they were everywhere!). Again the familiar experience into the unfamiliar.
I don't include these examples for laud, but to demonstrate how easy Web2.0 tools make pattern extending. Growing patterns in our minds is the basis of education.
Love to here more great examples from readers!
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Friday, November 9, 2007

Quality Writing

Every learner has the ability to write. Writing skills can be improved and all learners can improve writing skills. In order to write well one must be able to think and every learner has the ability to augment their thinking. Metacognition is an important skill, one into which we delve.
Michael Covington says:
"Good writing is partly a matter of character."
It is this character that I seek to boost in middle school students. We spend a good deal of time on this character development via writing and revisit it often.
Learners were asked during the last class to write a quality blog post about how they are doing eight steps which build character. They are always asked to include tags and a hyperlink. I then twitted for comments from my network. My purpose is to engage these learners in conversation. Conversations about their writing, their skills and their content. This is the beauty of Web2.0 - we create content on the web and we review content on the web.
We are in process. We will think and write better by Spring. We will build strong characters by the end of this course. Doesn't look like it now, but it will happen. Does every year.

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Covington, Michael A. (2002). How to write more clearly. Retrieved November 9, 2007, from Artificial Intelligence Center Web site at The University of Georgia:

Thursday, November 8, 2007

21st Century Literacies

More and more it appears that along with technical skill, learners will require a well-developed sense of ethics. Not only will learners rely upon the skills of communication, connection, and collaboration in the 21st century but their success will depend upon their ethical ability.
Those with a poor sense of ethics will center on success strategies of the 19th and 20th centuries. While these strategies were successful to people in those centuries, they are no longer useful to those in schools now.
So a dilemma is before me. How do I strengthen learners' ethical skills in the best way possible? I had learners responding to a post about ethics, after watching a video and reading short points from Straford Sherman (thank you coolcatteacher). Those who did the work worked quietly for 20 minutes, unheard of in middle school! That is certainly not enough.
I seek more suggestions about how to strengthen this most critical skill, especially in those that I am not reaching. Thank you to the three people who commented (you know who you are!)
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Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Ideal 21st Century Library

According to Jeffrey Trzeciak, quoted in this post, the university library has not expired, it has evolved. The k12 school library must meet the challenge as well.
Learners at our school often want a place to use their laptops to do research, check email, & scan rss aggregators. The focus in the middle school and high school is no longer on books, but on wireless access. Our school desperately needs space, comfortable seating, research information for these students as well as the more familiar books for PreK through 5th grade. I hope that we will find space for these things.
Libraries are still central to learning. Relationships are extended as learners gather in collaborations, connecting with their on-campus networks, and researching topics with support of librarians if needed. Library designs and functions continue to evolve.
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What's in your network?

A Learning Community is composed of one's network. In my online network are Twitter followers and those I follow (191), several ning communities, blog members, bloggers I read and with whom I often exchange comments, Skype contacts, & webcasters at the worldbridges network. I'm sure I have unintentionally forgotten someone and I apologise.

The purpose of any community is to support its members. My learning community supports me, both online and offline. This is true for all our learners. They are supported in their endeavors by their communities, whether those communities include educational institutions, religious organizations, or online members.
Making learners aware of their learning communities is a metacognitive activity. One which I still need to review this year.

There are some great visualisation tools for seeing one's network. The people we touch are often greater in number than we realise. Our networks support us in learning, explaining, defining, and traveling through life. When danger is close our networks care. When we do well our networks applaud. When we suffer our networks cry.

Our learning communities support us in researching, expressing, creating, & knowing. That we can call upon the expertise of their collective knowledge at any moment is an important 21st century skill for all learners to practice.
What great gift we can give to all our learners! We can help them see their networks, connect with their networks, collaborate with their networks, expand their networks.
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Tuesday, November 6, 2007 do I crave thee? Let me count the ways...

We are created for relationship. Our relationships are defined by connection, communication, and collaboration. Interesting those are the very terms I seek to facilitate for learners. We are also related by blood, but if there is no relationship there, then those people are merely acquaintance. I had several steps, I know whereof I speak....
How can we best foster connections in our classrooms? Using web2.0 tools like Skype, Ustream, audacity, audio-streaming, vidcasts, blogs, wikis, RSS makes this all super easy. I know there are programs I have not mentioned in this short list. The connection possibilities between students on opposite sides of oceans, continents, even the globe abound these days. It's rather simple really, find someone with whom to connect and connect away.
I have a class connecting with other students in a class in New Zealand. I have other students connecting with Great Britain. Yet other students are hoping to connect with a different class in New Zealand. The wrinkles are being pushed closer and closer. The physical distances are much less important than empathy, ethical actions, & tolerance for differing cultures.
Once connections are established, communication and collaboration can begin. Communication that counts, that teaches those involved, not just 'hello' and 'how are you?'. But communication at a deeper level, that is what I hope to encourage. Collaboration where all contribute meaningful work, not just go along for the ride. Wikis make this so easy, as the wiki history tells all.
I value the connections made in my life. I hope to make it easy for all learners to connect with others, even globally.
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Monday, November 5, 2007

Carpe Diem!

As coolcatteacher says in her post, "Motivational Monday: Dead Poet's Society Carpe Diem Scene", are you who you want to be? Not yesterday, not tomorrow, but right now, before it is too late. None of knows the time we go home, but all of us can seize the day right now.
Success in life is achieved through seizing each hour and doing whatever needs to be done in that hour. We are not successful through self-advancement but through service. Integrity is a characteristic of selflessness that I urge learners in my room to adopt. Eight steps towards integrity enumerated by Straford Sherman in 2003 include:

  • doing what we say we will
  • doing the right thing
  • taking responsibility for our words & actions
  • supporting our own weight
  • considering the big picture
  • respecting others
  • seeing ourselves clearly
  • defining rules & values against the plumbline
I like the Dead Poet's Society scene too and often show this movie in classes in the springtime when I am away at a conference. But am I really seizing my days? Constant introspection is needed to be sure that I am. I must be on guard constantly, Do I fail to measure up? Of course I do. How much more those tweens and teens in our schools who are never taught about integrity? I need to arm them, to provide them with tools they can use throughout their lives.
Many of you know I have been overwhelmed recently. I am doing a bookfair, my fulltime teaching, have a presentation looming, and have been ill. Hopefully, some of these pressures will melt away and I can give attention again to that which I love - writing! Thanks for putting up with me.
Sherman, S (2003). Rethinking Integrity. Leader to Leader. 28, 39-45.
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