Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Independent Learners

What does it mean to be in charge of your own learning? We drop that phrase but do we really consider the meaning? Today, unlike Monday, several 6th graders learned how to login to a site, answer questions there and update their profiles without my help! I am ecstatic! This is where they need to be, not relying on me to think for them or serve them learning on a silver platter.
One young man even made his own wiki. I know, I know, all this sounds so basic. Well it is. Sixth graders who have never had computer training, have never used any social networking sites, never created anything online, are suddenly putting two and two together to equal sixteen! Fabulous!!
We need to be teaching all learners to learn independently. Many of us gathered at Educon in Philly this past weekend to pursue our own learning (Jakes pursued Philly cheesesteaks). While it's great to get away, the important thing is to continue our conversational learning. Maria reminded us of this on Monday night. Now the challenge is to include those who were not there and draw all learners into the conversation, facilitating their journey to independent learning.
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Photo thanks to CARF, January 19, 2006 available at

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The beat goes on...

The phenomenon continues! It's Elementary did a live webcast last night recapping a little bit of Educon2.0. The show is a half hour show. After streaming live conversation for over one hour, we finally stopped so our streamer could go home. Normally, everyone then leaves the chatroom as well. Most return to their regularly scheduled lives. I was thanking guests via Skypechat (and forgive me if I overlooked anyone) when someone said something that made me pause. So I went back into the chatroom and discovered 10 people in there actively interacting!
In amazement, I alerted the edtechtalk gurus, one of whom suggested we fire up a stream. So Lee Baber streamed and I hosted another Skype call and people just kept at it!
This is not normal people! This is out of the ordinary so something extraordinary must have occurred this weekend. I haven't had time to review, regurgitate, or reexamine anything that happened. I do know Educon was like nothing of which I have ever know, even the coffee was better! (Special thanks to those students MrChase had make more coffee on Saturday!)
Tonight is WOW2.0 webcasting live on edtechtalk following Making Connections. What will happen next?
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Saturday, January 26, 2008


Please refer to the other 200 attendees blog's!
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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Describing School...

When the morning bell rang this morning, it signaled my end of duty at the preschool car circle. As I passed a student on her way to homeroom, I remarked, "Freedom!" She quickly retorted, "What do you mean? School is prison!"

I have been mulling over her assessment all day. I wonder how much like prisons are the schools of this nation? What common elements are seen in both prisons and in schools? Are there any important differences? Maybe you can help me out with these thoughts.
In thinking about those items one might list in a Venn diagram, both prisons and schools have unwilling inmates. I don't know of many prisoners who are willingly incarcerated. I really don't know of any learners who are either. Their ages are different. The bars are missing on our school, but not on many center-city schools.
One has a warden, the other a superintendent. One has guards, the other teachers, support staff, administrators. The hours are different thought. How about the inculcation?
Wes Fryer blogged about this in 2006, and probably elsewhere if I searched more diligently. There are probably others I am missing an I am sorry for not including you.
Society hopes to "re-educate" prisoners (I'm not saying it's an unworthy idea). Our culture hopes to educate economically viable citizenry (Again possibly a worthy idea). Does either population have a choice in the matter? Do they get to choose the inculcation or the method? Should they?
Help me by commenting on my blog. Please note I do not accept anonymous comments.
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Monday, January 21, 2008

Write a first-rate blog post!

The following are some traits of successful blog posts (written for fellow learners at my school):

1. The posts (or comments) are well written. This includes not only good content, but standard English conventions including capitalisation, organisation, punctuation, spelling, and grammar.
2. The posts (or comments) are responsive. They respond to other people’s ideas – whether it is a post by a teacher, a comment by a student, or an idea elsewhere on the Internet. The power of blogs is in connections – they are connected to a larger community of ideas. Participate in that community.
3. The posts (or comments) include textual references to support opinions. Adding quotes or links to other works strengthens your post.
4. To be part of the dialogue, part of the conversation, you have to participate fully, consistently and often.
5. Your posts (or comments) are respectful of others. It’s okay to disagree; it’s not okay to be disagreeable. Be respectful of others and their opinions, and be civil when you disagree.
6. Your posts include at least 3 technorati tags.
7. Your posts speak to visual literacy by carefully choosing an image to include. The image should refer to what is written.
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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Are we there yet?

Educators often talk about 21st century skills and our need to get ready for the 21st century. I know I'm not the brightest star in the bunch, but forgive me if I notice that we are already 8 years into the 21st century. This video, brought to my attention by Scott McLeod, summarises the challenges in educating those in k12 schools right now. The video is on The Friday Institute site
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Photo courtesy of Image After at

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Connect the Dots

Most amazing conversation came to me yesterday! A faculty member at my school came into the library (where they hide me) and excitedly told me about his new blog. He preaches at a local church and he started a blog to organise that. In the first week, several members visited and commented. Most remarkable, however, a grandmother in his congregation commented twice! He was so excited!
To me the demonstrative factor is that he started the blog because he was ready to use a web2.0 tool in order to get a specific job done. Note that I had nothing to do with this at all. I love it!
Shouldn't we all be searching for the most effective way to get tasks done?
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Photo by Jeff Kubina at

Friday, January 18, 2008

Parents Have Rights

If you believe that parents have the right to determine how their children will be raised sign The Petition!
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Photo by kevinrohr

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Communication or Conversation?

The difference between communication and conversation has much to do with a favorite quote:

Can two people walk together
without agreeing on the direction?
Amos 3:3
That is the crux of the difference. We can talk at each other, like those commercials on tv, or we can converse. But in order to converse we must share something. We must share at least the same direction for our conversation. This does not mean sharing viewpoints, but sharing the desired direction. A conversation involves at least two and it is the global conversation that you are invited to join. An ideal digital conversation shares a few important ideas:

  • listening - one can't listen if one is busy making a racket!
  • linking - hanging what is heard on something already known
  • reasoning - critically thinking about what is said
  • responding - extending the conversation

All learners need to graduate with fluency in several literacies. Reading literacy and writing literacy are familiar to most everyone. Included is mathematical literacy, visual literacy, & digital literacy. A conversation is common to all these literacies. Engaging in a conversation is essential to proficient fluency.
A great conversation is taking place now at The Future of Learning conference. Check it out and invite someone outside the echo chamber to share it with you.
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Photo thanks to Trisha M Shears available at

Print on demand

My 7th grade computer and study skills learners are publishing books on We will print two copies of our work for a schoolwide auction and then provide parents with details on getting their own copy. All proceeds will go to our school.
For us it is blatantly a fundraising activity but I can't think of a better way to have learners publish their work for parents to consume. Few parents have digital literacy and expect older world solutions. Perhaps stuck in those wrinkles...
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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Grounded Online Learning

Rick Biche made a list for good technology integration in classrooms. After one has implemented as many of those items as one can, there are several kinds of software that could be integrated.
The Will Richardson phrase "Wikis, Blogs & Podcasts, Oh My!" is familiar to many. It is often easier to start with a class blog and collaborate with other global bloggers before including other applications. A videoconference builds excitement for collaboration on wikipages. I've taught middle schoolers to incorporate tags with eye to researching topics by keywords (much like a library is catalogued). They also have RSS aggregators so information, like my homework (grin), is delivered to them daily.
We are just beginning creating podcasts in middle school, although the primary grades have been doing this. Spanish learners listen to an award winning podcast for homework every week (CoffeeBreak Spanish)
All of these ideas, the technology integration list, the web applications, the audio/video components, are hallmarks of a classroom where everyone is a learner. In such a classroom everyone is optimally focused on a creative task.
[At least I don't have a howling cat in the house]
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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Touch the Future

I wrote a post in November about sound which included an interview on Radio Lab. In the interview sound is referred to as touch at a distance.
I tie that concept into MI Theory. Recently I have been wondering if sound is touch at a distance, is light luminous touch? In delineating multiple intelligences was Howard Gardner really tracing all intelligence back to our basic sense of touch (without realising it of course).
When I read over the intelligences:
* Linguistic Intelligence
* Musical Intelligence
* Logical-Mathematical Intelligence
* Spatial Intelligence
* Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence
* Interpersonal Intelligence
* Intrapersonal Intelligence
* Naturalist Intelligence
I can connect each one with touch. I'm sure you can too.
Therefore if each intelligence is a way to touch, then teaching others to exploit the intelligences is touching the future.
Karl Fisch said we prepare young learners for a future we cannot envision. We can touch this future however.
We touch the future by touching our young learners now. We can touch them through light and sound by using videos (not your grandmother's filmstrips - more like Teachertube), musical creations, webquests, dance, & machinima. We have such an important job to do, such a heavy responsibility, an exciting & liberating opportunity. Are you using laminated lesson plans as my principal says or are you integrating technology into everything you can at a dizzying rate?
Whose future did you touch today?
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Friday, January 11, 2008

Online Research Writing Course

Sal Dobbs is offering two writing courses, one for grades 5-8 and another for high school students. The purpose of the courses is to take students through the process of writing a research-based paper or essay. Middle school students will learn how to write an expository paper that is research-based. High school students who choose to write a paper may choose expository or persuasive, but the emphasis will be on the persuasive mode of writing, using research as the basis for argument. The course will be presented once a week for four weeks. The fifth session is an individual meeting with Mrs. Dobbs to evaluate the work turned in by an individual student.

This course is offered online, with handouts available to download. Students who choose to may submit a final paper via email to Mrs. Dobbs. She will evaluate it on the six-trait writing scale.

If you are interested in signing up for this course, please email

Sal Dobbs has taught writing, the teaching of writing, and the evaluation of writing, to students, parents and educators for over fifteen years. She has taught in both public and private schools. This course is being offered for home school and other interested students.
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Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Who you gonna call?

When you want to know the proper sound setup for a conference presentation, how to capture video, or which aggregator is most recommended, you are you gonna consult?
You will go to those you trust, people with solid reputations, contacts in your personal learning network.
I had 6th graders create a of their learning networks. They included the expected teachers, staff of the school, and principal. Also included were parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, even siblings. Many learners never considered these relatives as part of their learning network. Then we talked about other people we could include, like other bloggers we read, people who comment on our blog (IM is loving those comments - keep 'em coming!), tv shows or games we play.
We have widened our definition of a personal learning network to include anyone or anything that influences us to change. Learning is synonymous with change. Knowledge is collective and shared.
Yesterday I had the pleasure to be much smarter than I am because my network included two learners, often called students, who are much brighter than I can ever hope to be. I needed help setting up a Ustream demo and they were both there working as the experts with me. I simply love that! How often do we allow learners to shine and to know more than we do? I think it is something we need to do, as some learners are so motivated by leading.
Who did you allow to shine ahead of yourself within your sphere of influence today?
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Monday, January 7, 2008

Really Serious Stressrelief!

Join It's Elementary on Tuesday, January 15, 2008 at 00:00:00GMT (refer to this page for your time zone within the USA).
Jose Rodriquez, Alice Mercer, Maria Knee, & Lisa Durff will be joined by Jennifer Dorman to talk about RSS. To participate in the live interactive webcast go to, enter the chat room and ask for location of the sound. No password is needed to enter the chatroom. See you there Monday!

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Saturday, January 5, 2008


USA Today reports that 80% of 10th grade students plan to go to college. Contrast this expectation with Dana's at Principled Discovery observation that
The most interesting barriers to me include high schools which do not yet see preparing all students for postsecondary education as their responsibility

Would seem to me that if so many k12 students anticipate attending college that it is part of my job to prepare learners to do just that. It would further stand to reason that college preparation would be part of the job description of every k12 educator.
Which skills are essential for college-bound learners? The ability to communicate, collaborate, & connect are skills all learners need to master in order prepare for the 21st century.
As a k12 lead learner I must equip learners with these skills. Being a sage on a stage is not equipping. Preparing an environment which differentiates for every learner, insists on excellence & mastery, & presents content in the way in which learners acquire knowledge.
Am I preparing 80% of the learners in my classes for success in college?
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Tappo, G. & DeBarros, A., (2005, June 2). Reality weighs down dreams of college. Retrieved January 5, 2008, from USA Today Web site:
Photo courtesy of Wilson College, 2006.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Learning Communities

What defines a learning community? How is learning defined, quantified, valued? Learning seems to be equivalent with change. If there is not change within a person, how can anyone say they have learned? I don't mean always change one can see. Such learning maybe quite invisible to most people. But if the status quo is good enough, then why bother learning anything? The learning may simply be a paradigmatic shift, quite invisible itself to the human eye.
Although the learning maybe invisible, the result is not always so. I think my learning in the Web2.0 world over the past year + a few months are quite evident to all. The shifts I have made in my ideas about quality learning are annoying to many, incomprehensible to some, downright radical to others.
Community is at it's loosest defined as a group of people. Hopefully there is a group of people gathered around a common goal. Makes me wonder what a community does, how does it act, who is within the community and who is without the community.
My community on the web keeps me company, supports me, corrects me (how else will I learn?), comforts me, cheers me on. They do not ridicule me, insult me, or discredit my paradigms. People (and behind every pseudonym, avatar, or virtual character there is a real person) who are a member of community, any community, fit this description.
I explained to a fellow learner at my school with how many people I was on New Year's. I don't pay that much attention to days anyway, but if one were to count those on twitter alone (not counting other modes of communication) I think there were a good thirty or more.
The point is community. Are we acting like a learning community? I find myself stretching many times to do that. I am naturally saracastic, bold, and as my IT guy would quickly point out belligerent.
How can we all act more like a learning community this year?
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Thursday, January 3, 2008

Inside out

Much is being said about thinking 'outside the box' in education. Many of us, myself included, urge other lead learners to change from an industrial education style to a conceptual age education style. We are often frustrated by the lack of change.
It seems, and I hope I am wrong here, that lead learners seek the comfort of the quick answer. The multiple choice, black n' white, yes or no type of education where we are right and they are wrong. Technology integration doesn't seem to work that way.
There is a lack of tenacity in this regard. When things don't immediately work out perfectly then innovators become stagnant. Refusing to budge, they seek comfort in industrial education. I have seen it over and over.
This response puzzles me, I guess because it is so different from my own.I need to more accurately count the cost that I expect others take in order to be the change. Ric Murry very accurately reminds that: is hard for me to believe anyone is really willing to be the change for something as big as national education system.
He's got a point. Why should they? We have an entire system built upon high-stakes testing, scripted curriculum, & tenure for following the system.
Even in private education learners are conditioned (sorry Pavlov) to play school from 8-3. Why should a couple illegal aliens upset the apple cart?
I was very surprised today when not only did my principal supply me personally with hardware necessary to Ustream a class but spoke to me and another learner about how education is changing. Are we getting through? Are we at the tipping point yet?
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Photo courtesy of

Wednesday, January 2, 2008


The assassination of Bhutto came as a complete surprise to me. I heard of it on Friday even though it occurred on Thursday. I was so dumbfounded that many fellow-twitters can attest to my reaction.
Many wondered why I was so concerned. Why should a death of one woman halfway around the globe cause me any concern? Remember the shot that rang through history? Perhaps this article would explain it better.
The Pakistani government has changed their explanation of Bhutto's death and the elections have been postponed.
As events continue to unfold in the mideast, we each have cause for concern. We all personally know people serving in the military who are stationed in the mideast, in harm's way. If those nuclear arms fall into the wrong hands, we all are directly in harm's way.
In 50 years, how will we remember her death? Will her death have gloabl repercussions?
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Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Semantic Web

Enrico Motto recently addressed the Open University at Berrill Lecture Theatre in Milton Keys, United Kingdom. He spoke about the Semantic Web. He sought to define the term 'Semantic Web', to answer why it is an interesting development, and to explain the current state of the Semantic Web.

He defined 'Semantic Web' as human interaction with large scale knowledge distribution using worldwide web documents. He asserts there is a specific vocabulary, as there is in every field or domain, for writing the coding that underlies much of the web. He obviously expresses this more eloquently and accurately than I ever could.

He asserts the semantic web is about collaboration. Doesn't that sound familiar? Before the semantic web, there were static webpages. Now there are interactive webpages. No big news to many of us.

He relates the semantic web to artificial intelligence. He quotes Papert, saying:
Today there has been a shift in paradigm. The fundamental problem of understanding intelligence is not the identification of a few powerful techniques, but rather the question of how to represent large amounts of knowledge in a fashion that permits their effective use. Goldstein and Papert, 1977

His talk ends with a great story about driving at high speeds.

How are you representing your knowledge base as you speed down the road of the semantic web?
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Are you who you want to be?

Are we giving our K12 learners the tools and opportunities they need to become who they want to be? Will they have to supplement the education we provide in order to meet their goals?

It seems we should be teaching skills laid on the foundations of creativity, collaboration, & critical thinking. Our public schools in the USA seem to have their hands tied because of NCLB. With such a problematic situation, there must be an end result.

Could the solution be a mass exodus from the public school system so the system implodes? We could be apathetic enough to allow NCLB legislation. We could voice our taxpaying voices to our representatives. What occurs next in public education in this country is within our grasp. We have the choice.

NCLB assessment data measures well one type of intelligence. There are nine identified intelligences according to Harvard professor Howard Gardner. The tested Linguistic intelligence is no better than any other, although it is admittedly easier to test with multiple-choice questions on timed tests that are standardized nation-wide.

If we veer away from traditional, industrial, boxed-in education for our learners, we may increase intrinsic motivation. When creativity, collaboration, & critical thinking are emphasised, we are closing in on conceptual-age, 21st century, outside-the-box education. It is regrettable when learners report often learning more outside of school than inside school. What have we done? Are we really who we want to be?
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Photo on stockxpert by orson

Global Conversations

Christian Long comments on David Warlick's blog:

The moment we begin to re-focus our energies, expertise, and voices in helping people generate the compelling question on their own terms…the sooner we’ll see true global change.

He really summarizes the issue well. It is not the name, it is not the geeks, is not even the US Presidential debates. It is about facilitating others to enter the global conversation.
So if global change can be effected by assisting others to express their own voice then we need an action plan. What is it (I like lists) that we need to be doing, who will measure our effectiveness, and by when must it be done?
Must we be:

* blogging
* wiking
* podcasting
* webcasting
* bookmarking
* twittering

Must we be doing all to be effective or is one or a few okay? What items are missing from this list?
According to Wes Fryer, the need to engage, not enthrall, is imperative. He applies this to students, but it needs to be applied to all learners, regardless of age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or any other label I have forgotten here. Differentiation for all learners, not just those labeled students
As a wise proactive principal once remarked, who did you pull into the echo chamber this week? (Apologies if I already posted this, I'm New Year's cleaning the Scribefire...)
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Photo on Stock.xchng by Carl Dwyer

Too much time on my hands....

What happens when you begin listing photo/audio sharing sites for someone else....well if you're me, then you get in trouble. Here's the result

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