Friday, May 30, 2008

Raise the bar

This is a link to a video of CNBC's Erin Burnett interviewing Ursula Burns, president of Xerox; Bob Compton, executive producer of Two Million Minutes; as well as Molly Broad, president of the American Council on Education and the former president of The University of North Carolina. Ms. Burnett reports America has an education crisis. Not news to most of us in the edublogosphere.
What can we do to divert this crisis?
I think showing all 7th through 12th graders Two Million Minutes is a first step. I can do that, in my 7th and 8th grade classrooms. A second step is perhaps initiating a discussion with students about the harsh reality of their futures. Their education today is affecting the American economy tomorrow and the role they will play in that economy.
A third step might be realistic goal setting. As a lead learner in Study Skills, time managment is within the scope of our studies. I need to do a better job - all Americans are indeed entitled to both the privilege of failing a course and entitled to a world class education. I cannot affect the failing grades, the learners make those decisions.
Every learner that passes through my classroom, however, is entitled to world class education. I need to up the ante. How do I best prepare life-long learners who are prepared for both university education and the business world? How do I equip learners to compete on a global stage against cultures that value academics more highly than Americans do?

Friday, May 23, 2008

A Rose by any other name...

Emma Duke brings up a valid point. We need to reach beyond the nomenclature of "Blogs, wikis, podcasts...." These terms turn the general public off. They are the names of tools we use to do something else anyway, so why use names of tools instead of names of processes?

Blogs are about reading and writing. There are some minor technical points, like tags, hyperlinks & images that are used in blogs and not in paper essays. Primarily, the reading, the resonating, the conversing, the writing - these are the crux of the matter.

Wikis are about sharing and collaborating. They have some differences from paper groupwork, but essentially the sharing is the point. Learning to use a wiki is not the point of k12 education, it is a vehicle.

Podcasts are audio recordings. I went to a podcasting workshop at PETE-C. On our way there, Jim asked me, "What do you hope to learn about podcasting?" I really know nothing. I use a tool for live interactive audio. I create live noise. Podcasting is a different tool. They can be generated from a synchronous meeting, as in a webcast. Or podcasts can be totally asynchronous and listened to at convenience.

I like Emma's point. I certainly have been guilty of using names with which few identify.
So what is the new mantra? Reading, writing, sharing?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Watch the sun rise!

If you would like to experience the future, attend a
Horizon Project Student Summit! I attended two yesterday given by the students at Westwood Schools and was very impressed. These high school students have researched, gathered and report upon trends from the Horizon Report 2008.

They presented in Elluminate with Vicki Davis at the helm. Their presentations, and those of high schoolers around the globe, are well worth attending. One can hear, speak, backchannel and talk in Elluminate. Their backchanneling skills were awesome! Well worth missing my school's own awards ceremony!

So watch the coolcatteacher's blog and twitters for the next exciting Horizon Project Student Summit. It will be like looking at the future or in Vicki's words - keep your eyes on the horizon (i'm sorry if i butchered your words Vicki)...

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© 2003-2008 image*after - content copyright-free

Sunday, May 18, 2008


I asked the Twitterverse :What if we let kids choose courses?

Bassman_Sean Bassman_Sean @durff the world would descend in to complete chaos... just kidding! I think it would allow students to centre their learning around...
Bassman_Sean Bassman_Sean @durff whatever path they hope to take in life, but still allows those who don't know what they want to do take a varied education
Doug Symington dougsymington @Durff believe that not only should kids should be allowed to choose courses, but also subsequently be challenged to help develop curriculum
dmcordell dmcordell Icon_red_lock @Durff Our HS kids choose electives. Do you mean the entire curriculum? What about elementary students?
susan tsairi susant @durff I think it's a great idea
David Truss datruss @Durff What age? Is a course like Math or English necessary? Choice comes with responsibility. Different Q:What if we let kids choose marks?
Bassman_Sean Bassman_Sean @durff actually yeah, I should have probably asked the same thing as @dmcordell
lorisheldon lorisheldon @Durff interesting, if done with some guidelines, can you imagine... would be much more motivated to learn!
susan tsairi susant @durff link to post with an idea I had in that direction
dmcordell dmcordell Icon_red_lock @Durff Wld there be any core components: you want to be an environmentalist so you must have...?
David Truss datruss @Durff So you mean, they request an indivisualized course? That would be very cool! Find topic, demonstrate learning, get credit- I like it!
dmcordell dmcordell Icon_red_lock @Durff There might be student shock too,if after 4 yrs of studying phys ed they try to get job or go to college!Parents wld be a hard sell.

I'm still chuckling about the world descending into total chaos! BTW, Sean is a stakeholder in the U.K., so his contributions to the conversation are particularly pertinent.

So what if we let students choose at least some courses? What is your opinion?

Be Flexible

Someone in my RSS wrote about this concept and I can't find it now. Figures, this time of year is so busy. If it was you, please point me to your words, I would love to reread them.
What if sophmores, juniors and seniors could choose their courses for part of their day? What if they were told to choose one or two courses of interest to them, ask teachers to mentor them, and group themselves by interest? What if they actually received credit for their performances in these courses?
What do we suppose would happen? I think we all do that right now. Think about the skills you have. Are they the same as another who is your age? Probably not. Do you have the same skills I do? No, you're probably better at everything. The point is, we congregate around our interests. We devote time to learning those things which interest us. Those in high school are no different.
Many high schools have activity periods for interest groups. But participants receive no credit. Students, teachers, and parents tell students, both in attitude and words, to put more effort into course grades which go on their transcripts. What if educators turned that around? What if we shortened those block schedules to fit in another class period or two and allowed the main stakeholders to call the shots?
What if?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Final Exam

I've been giving a final exam in my 8th grade computer class. It is not the typical "cram-the-night-before-the-knowledge-level-paper-and-pen" sort of test. They are challenged to create two products using software which I have never taught them.

Using Adobe PhotoShop Elements, they had to manipulate a picture of a striped animal, changing the stripes to neon. A learner who has only been in the class for three weeks, not only came early during his study hall to do the work (I publish work the night before and learners see it in their RSS) but completed the first task within five minutes. So much for my final.

The smile on his face when he had accomplished that was priceless. I have to buy a camera this summer to capture those smiles! I'm not sure of the animal but here is his picture:

Another learner joined the class last month. He took his picture took a little longer but he had just as much fun:

I was chatting with another faculty member about the exam. He is more tech savvy than he likes to admit. He mentioned that he would not be able to pass my exam. Makes me feel a wee bit better.
The 2nd product they make is a greeting card. Wonder how long that will take them?
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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Classroom Management

What's it all about? I was taught classroom management is all about control and power. As the teacher (a term I abhor) I control the students through the power which resides within me.
I reject this outdated notion. I do believe it is very important that all learners act with respect for all individuals. I do believe that classroom time is for assignment completion and not for goofing off. Right now about 90% of learners with whom I share space are working very hard and are engaged in tasks. It is the other 10% that are sold out to industrial age learning that I have not yet reached. All but a few are returning next fall, so I still have hope for these learners.
So my question is, if I am rejecting the model of classroom management which I was taught, is there a model to replace it? Should there be? What are pre-service teachers being taught?

Photo courtesy of longo schools available at

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Nearly now

In Learning to Change, a recent video by Pearson's for CoSN which appears on YouTube, Stephen Heppell refers to a space in which learners txt, twitter & facebook. He says it is an interesting space which allows for thoughtful communication without pressure.
This 'nearly now' is not quite synchronous and not quite asynchronous. Professor Heppell says it is a space for learning. But is it? Are we guiding learners into reflecting upon what they say?
In order for learners to exploit this new dimension to the fullest, we lead learners need to guide them into thoughtful communications. Children seem to forget that behind every electronic communication is a real person with real feelings. Our communications should all be full of empathy, netiquette, & a healthy concern for safety.
I hope someone continues this thread of conversation. The nearly now spaces are so fascinating.
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Friday, May 9, 2008

Are You Addicted?

Will Richardson talks about being addicted to learning. He spends 5 hours online. He is not addicted to the internet but to the learning, as I am. The learning opportunities are incredible. I was watching a ustream of four panelists in Sydney, Australia.

Think about how incredible that is.....I can watch a recording of a previously recorded conference that took place on the other side of the world. All of it is free. Learning is online, 24/7, free & addictive!

This morning my 7th graders connected via videoconference with learners in another state. They introduced themselves and learned a little bit about their team members. Teams will work together asynchronously to produce a simple artifact. Teams will choose topics within a given theme and then use a comic strip creator to create a strip about their topic. Teams are separated by a few miles and a time zone.

I know I have provided my learners with all the tools which they will need in order to be successful at this project. Mr. Jacklin and I are preparing these learners to be 21st century learners.

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Photo courtesy of Will Richardson, available at

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

K12 Online Announces!

K12Online08 Call for Proposals:
Amplifying Possibilities

We are pleased to announce the call for proposals for the third annual “K12 Online Conference” for educators around the world interested in the use of web 2.0 tools in classrooms and professional practice. This year’s conference is scheduled for October 20-24 and October 27-31 of 2008, and will include a pre-conference keynote during the week of October 13. The conference theme for 2008 is “Amplifying Possibilities.” Participation in the conference (as in the past) is entirely free. Conference materials are published in English and available for worldwide distribution and use under a Creative Commons license. Some changes in the requirements for presentations are being made this year and are detailed below. The deadline for proposal submission is June 23, 2008. Selected presentations will be announced at NECC 2008 in San Antonio, Texas, USA on July 2.


As in past years, K12 Online 2008 will feature four “conference strands,” two each week. Two presentations will be published in each strand each day, Monday through Friday, so four new presentations will be available each day over the course of the two weeks. Including the pre-conference keynote, a total of 41 presentations will be published. Each twenty minute (or less) presentation will be shared online in a downloadable format and released simultaneously via the conference blog (www.k12onlineconference.or,) the conference Twitter account, and the conference audio and video podcast channels. All presentations will be archived online for posterity. A total of 82 past presentations are currently available from K12 Online 2006 and K12 Online 2007. If you are planning to submit a proposal, please review archived presentations from past years to determine what you might offer that is new and builds on previous work. A variety of live events will also be planned during and following the weeks of the conference.


Week 1

Strand A: Getting Started

Everything you wanted to know about getting started with web 2.0 technologies for learning but were afraid to ask. The presentations in this strand will focus on specific, free tools for newcomers. Whether you have one classroom computer or a laptop for every student, digital technologies can provide new opportunities to connect with other learners, create new and exciting knowledge products, and engage students in an expanded learning process beyond the traditional “boundaries of the bell.” Teachers first introduced to Web 2.0 tools are often unaware of the new possibilities for teaching and learning afforded by the Read/Write Web. Presentations in this strand will amplify and model what is possible in terms of pedagogy, student creation of content, and collaboration. Practical classroom implementation ideas will be emphasized. Presentations will focus more on the ways new tools can be used to engage students in learning, rather than focusing exclusively on how specific tools are used. If you’ve ever felt like everyone else knows more than you about teaching with technology and you need help getting started, this is the strand for you.

Strand B: Kicking It Up a Notch

You’ve been using blogs, wikis and other technologies for awhile but perhaps haven’t seen them transform your classroom and the learning environment for your students in the ways you think they can. This strand amplifies ways new technologies can be used to transform classroom and personal learning. Rather than merely replicating traditional, analog-based learning tasks, how can digital technologies permit teacher-leaders to “infomate” learning to add greater interactivity, personal differentiation, and multi-modal exploration of curriculum topics? Fresh new approaches to using Web 2.0 tools for learning and authentic assessment will be highlighted. Presentations will explore innovative ways Web 2.0 tools can be blended together to help students create, collaborate, and share the knowledge safely on the global stage of the Internet. Maybe it’s time to share your insights and experiences with your teaching community. Join these sessions to gain insights on amplifying the possibilities of learning in your classroom and/or your professional practice.

Week 2

Strand A: Prove it

Although some teachers are excited to “amplify possibilities” using computer technologies, Web 2.0 tools, and 21st Century learning strategies in their classrooms, how do we know if these innovative instructional strategies are really working? Since information technologies and emerging brain research continue to rapidly evolve and change, it is challenging as well as vital to find current, meaningful research to undergird the learning initiatives we are using in our classrooms. What are “best practices” for teaching and learning with the new participatory media? This strand will share research results from the field that support students in using knowledge to communicate, collaborate, analyze, create, innovate, build community and solve problems. In addition, successful methods for developing and/or delivery of action research pojects or research-based instruction in today’s digital world will be explored. In some cases, participants may be invited to participate in ongoing or beginning research on Web 2.0 tool use, constructivist pedagogy, or other 21st Century research issues. Educational research about emerging professional development strategies, contemporary learning theory, systemic school reform, and other current themes of educational change are also appropriate for inclusion in this strand.

Help us to examine such research questions as:

  • What does research in learning science, instructional design, informal learning, and other fields tell us about today’s learner and their success?
  • What design features must teachers incorporate into their instructional activities to support meaningful learning?
  • What is the role of assessment in today’s changing classroom? How should assessment be structured to meaningfully assess student achievement in the context of the modern classroom?

Strand B: Leading the Change

Innovative approaches to teaching and learning using web 2.0 tools are often utilized by a limited number of “early adopter” teachers in our schools. This strand seeks to amplify ways educators in a variety of contexts are serving as constructive catalysts for broad-based pedagogic change using Web 2.0 technologies as well as student-centered, project-based approaches to learning. Presentations in this strand will both showcase successful strategies as well as amplify critical issues which must be addressed for innovative learning methods to be adopted by teachers, librarians, and administrators on a more widespread basis. These issues may include (but are not limited to) issues of copyright, fair use and intellectual property, Internet content filtering, student privacy and safety issues, administrator expectations for teacher utilization of Web 2.0 tools, pilot initiatives utilizing key Web 2.0 technologies in different content areas, and innovative ways students and teachers are providing just-in-time support as well as formal learning opportunities for each other focusing on Web 2.0 tools. Successful approaches for both large and small schools, in rural as well as urban settings, will be included. This strand will explore and amplify a menu of practical ideas for educators in diverse contexts who want to continue amplifying possibilities in our schools.


This call encourages all educators, both experienced and novice with respect to Web 2.0 learning tools, to submit proposals to present at this conference via this link. Take this opportunity to share your successes, strategies, and tips in “amplifying the possibilities” of web 2.0 powered learning in one of the four conference strands.

The deadline for proposal submissions is June 23, 2008 at midnight GMT. You will be contacted no later than July 2, 2008 regarding your proposal’s status. The conveners reserve to right to reposition a presentation in another strand if they believe it is best placed elsewhere. As in past years, conveners will utilize blind review committees to evaluate all submissions.

Presentations for K12Online08 must conform to the following requirements:

  1. Presentations must be a single media file of twenty minutes or less in length.
  2. Presentations must be submitted in a downloadable and convertable file format (mp3, mov, WMV, FLV, m4a, or m4v.) Presenters wanting to use an alternative format should contact their respective strand convener in advance.
  3. Presentations are due two weeks prior to the week the relevant strand begins. (Week 1 presentations are due Monday, October 6, Week 2 presentations are due Monday, October 13.)
  4. Presentations must be submitted only one time and on time. Early submissions are welcomed! Repeat submissions (with changes and additional edits) will not be accepted. Presenters should proof carefully before submitting!
  5. All presentations will be shared under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.

The following are optional but encouraged presentation elements:

  1. Prior to September 13th, presenters are invited to submit a “teaser” (maximum video or audio file length: 3 minutes) about their presentation. This can be any type of online artifact and does not have to be downloadable. Examples may include videos, animations, posters, audio interviews, etc.
  2. In addition to marketing the presentation, teasers can be designed to encourage and solicit community input related to the presentation topic in advance of the presentation submission deadline.
  3. View teaser examples from 2007 at
  4. Supplementary materials supporting presentations are welcomed. These can be wikis with supporting material links, linked examples of student projects, school district exemplary initiatives, social bookmarking collections, and/or other related content.
  5. Follow-up projects and/or live interaction opportunities for conference presentations which further amplify the possiblities of the presentation topic may be included. (This can include sharing and building of content prior to, during and after the conference.)

As you draft your proposal, you may wish to consider the presentation topics listed below which were suggested in the comments on the K-12 Online Conference Blog:

  • Special needs education
  • Creative Commons, Intellectual Property, Copyright and Fair Use
  • Student voices
  • Community involvement
  • Games in education
  • Specific ideas, tips, mini lessons centered on pedagogical use of web 2.0 tools
  • Overcoming institutional inertia and resistance
  • Aligning Web 2.0 and other projects to national standards
  • Getting your message across
  • How web 2.0 can assist those with disabilities
  • ePortfolios
  • Classroom 2.0 activities at the elementary level
  • Teacher/peer collaboration
  • Authentic assessment
  • Overcoming content filtering issues
  • Navigating “open web” versus “closed web” publishing of student work

Prospective presenters are reminded that the audience of the K12 Online Conference is global in nature and diverse in their educational context. For this reason presentations and presentation materials which address issues from a variety of perspectives are welcomed.


Acceptance decisions will be made based on RELEVANCE, SIGNIFICANCE, ORIGINALITY, QUALITY, and CLARITY. Borrowing from the COSL 2008 call for proposals:

A submission is RELEVANT when

  • it directly addresses the conference and strand themes

A submission is SIGNIFICANT when

  • it raises and discusses issues important to improving the effectiveness and/or sustainability of 21st Century teaching and learning efforts, and
  • its contents can be broadly (globally) disseminated and understood

A submission is ORIGINAL when

  • it addresses a new problem or one that hasn’t been studied in depth,
  • it has a novel combination of existing research results which promise new insights, and / or
  • it provides a perspective on problems different from those explored before

A submission is of HIGH QUALITY when

  • existing literature is drawn upon, and / or
  • claims are supported by sufficient data, and / or
  • an appropriate methodology is selected and properly implemented, and / or
  • limitations are described honestly

A submission is CLEARLY WRITTEN when

  • it is organized effectively, and / or
  • the English is clear and unambiguous, and / or
  • it follows standard conventions of punctuation, mechanics, and citation, and / or
  • the readability is good


The first presentation in each strand will kick off with a keynote by a well known educator who is distinguished and knowledgeable in the context of their strand. Keynoters will be announced shortly.


  • Darren Kuropatwa is currently Department Head of Mathematics at Daniel Collegiate Institute in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. He is known internationally for his ability to weave the use of online social tools meaningfully and concretely into his pedagogical practice. Darren’s professional blog is called A Difference ( He will convene Getting Started.
  • Dean Shareski is a Digital Learning Consultant for Prairie South School Division in Saskatchewan, Canada. Dean is an advocate for the use of social media in the classroom. To that end he works with teachers and students in exploring ways to make learning relevant, authentic and engaging. He also is a part time sessional lecturer for the University of Regina. He is celebrating his 20th year as an educator. Dean blogs at ( Dean will convene Kicking It Up A Notch.
  • Sheryl Nusbaum-Beach, a 20-year educator, has been a classroom teacher, charter school principal, district administrator, and digital learning consultant. She currently serves as an adjunct faculty member teaching preservice teachers at The College of William and Mary (Virginia, USA), where she is in the dissertation phase of completing her doctorate in educational planning, policy and leadership. As the cofounder of the Powerful Learning Practice Network she helps schools and teachers from around the world use community as a powerful tool for systemic change. You can find out more on her website at She will convene Prove It.
  • Wesley Fryer is an educator, author, digital storyteller and change agent. He summarizes his ongoing work with educators and students in social media environments with the statement, “I’m here for the learning revolution.” His blog, “Moving at the Speed of Creativity” was selected as the 2006 “Best Learning Theory Blog” by eSchoolnews and Discovery Education. Social media sites to which Wes contributes are listed on Wes will convene Leading the Change.


If you have any questions about any part of this call for proposals, please contact one of us:

  • Darren Kuropatwa: dkuropatwa {at} gmail {dot} com
  • Dean Shareski: shareski{at} gmail{dot} com
  • Sheryl Nusbaum-Beach: snbeach {at} cox {dot} net
  • Wesley Fryer: wesfryer {at} pobox {dot} com

Please duplicate this post and distribute it far and wide across the blogosphere. Feel free to republish it on your own blog (actually, we’d really like people to do that ;-) ) or link back to this post (published simultaneously on all our blogs).

  • Conference Tag: k12online08
  • Sunday, May 4, 2008


    Many would agree that formal writing is all about composition. Composing for a particular audience which is quite distinct from composing txt spk 4 IMs, SMS, Skype ch@, n oder P2P msgs. Have difficulty reading that? That is the point.
    The Pew Foundation just published Writing, Technology & Teens recently. This report states,

  • 83% of parents of teens feel there is a greater need to write well today than there was 20 years ago.
  • 86% of teens believe good writing is important to success in life – some 56% describe it as essential and another 30% describe it as important.

    Two of school's major constituent groups hold writing in high regard. Therefore faculty and admins should do so too. The question then becomes, "How do I write well?"
    There are many excellent writing programs already published. Our school is using Step Up to Writing. The lessons are as easily employed on blogs and wikis as on paper. I think for me the big lesson is practicing with middle school learners when to use txt spk and when to employ formal composition styles.

  • How do you teach composition in your school? Is it limited to writing composition?
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    Photo by webphotographeer available at

    Saturday, May 3, 2008


    There's another diversion in town sure to help me procrastinate more! Cossondra George twittered this about an hour ago so naturally having much to accomplish in little time I went to the link and....
    If you run your mouse over the names you will see who has who in common. The power of interconnected networks demonstrated. Remember all of us is better than one of us

    Try TweetWheel yourself!

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    Friday, May 2, 2008

    It's all in the connections

    Chris Lehman, principal of Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, recently wrote a post about the strength of a school system. He claims the strength lies in the schools that make up that system. My comment is reposted here:

    The strength of a school lies in the networks that are created by its students. Facilitating network formation for students is in an educators' job description.

    Traditionally, a student's network consisted of teachers. The newer paradigm redefines students' networks to include those who are not present in the same time and space.

    Connecting, communicating, and collaborating (I tend to repeat myself a lot) with a global community is an essential skill for today's learners. The ability to reflect, to think, and to compose essay (pictorial, oral, or written) creatively is a skill with which I feel I must equip learners who pass through my classrooms.
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    Photo courtesy of Duncan Work available at