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Friday, February 26, 2010

Join us for Project Presentations at Flat Classroom Mini-conference in Mumbai, India




Find more photos like this on Flat Classroom Conference


From about 45 minutes from the time of this post, the students and educators that are part of the Flat Classroom Mini-conference being hosted by the American School of Bombay in Mumbai, India at ASB Unplugged will be presenting and YOU can participate.

We have been blessed with a 50 something group of students and educators in a project-based miniconference that will have participants thoroughly understanding the nuances of planning and bringing to fruition a Flat Classroom - style project.

In 45 minutes, eleven teams will be giving their presentations. They are filling out their wikis and preparing to present as we speak. Here is how you may join us:

Ustream video - http://asbunplugged2010.flatclassroomproject.org/UStream.tv
Our Wiki - http://asbunplugged2010.flatclassroomproject.org 
Our Ning - http://flatclassroomconference.ning.com

The projects that have been invented:

The students and educators are preparing.  When these are done, we will be polling you. (If you vote early, the poll will be cleared at the end of presentations and voting will stay open for 2-3 hours.)

Finalists will go on to strand 1 of the mini-conference to craft their digital video to be shared at tomorrow's closing session of ASB Unplugged and then global voting will be opened for the next week to determine the project that will best "open up" education and improve our world.

Strand 2 will go on to organize and craft the 30 minute closing ceremony that is part of the closing of ASB Unplugged. (If you are reading this post a bit later, the closing ceremony wiki will show you what they are planning. These ceremonies will also be ustreamed on Flat Classroom TV.)

Hope you'll join us and as this is at an odd time for North America - if you'll retweet, we'd appreciate it!
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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

All Things India: Travel with our Tour Guide Mrs. Jaishri Vashisht



Just a little peek at the ways that our students are "traveling" to India. Here, I posed the questions to our tour guide for the fifth graders and filmed as if they are traveling beside her in the bus as we tour the city.

The fifth graders have had us on a "scavenger hunt" of sorts about all types of things India. Some of these things are not "in" Mumbai or not easily observable, so we asked our delightful tour guide to help us and explain the many things. The fifth grade, in particular, should watch these with their scavenger hunt in hand and "sit" beside Mrs. Jaishri Vashisht to learn about the items in their scavenger hunt. The rest of you may learn from her as well. Enjoy! It is about sixteen minutes long.



Mrs. Jaishri's contact information is below: Jaishri Vashisht Joyful Journeys Pvt. Lts. jshri2509@hotmail.com www.touringindia.org Phone 26183779, 66302812 New Delhi (She covers the whole country and does wonderful student exchange programs. She used to be a teacher. I would really like to come back and have her take me on a "tiger spotting tour," to the Ganges, to New Delhi, and to the Himalaya mountains.)
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Daily Spotlight on Education 02/23/2010




Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Mumbai



If this blog seems a little quiet this week, it is because I have a group of students and Mrs. Betty, the curriculum director at ASB Unplugged and the Flat Classroom mini-conference.It is like 2 am in the morning here and we've been traveling since 9 am Saturday morning (we lost 10 1/2 hours.)

What a trip, but wanted all of you to know where the ole cool cat was heading. In fact, if the weather getting off the plane is any indication, maybe I should temporarily be the Hot Cat Teacher. ;-)


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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Dear Administrator: Focus



As I said on Twitter this weekend:

"When you need to focus your presentation, get offline and focus on your presentation." 

This is my letter to administrators about focus.  As I read the story of Monica Keeler leaving Myspace for Facebook  the words on her blog "This is the Story of a Girl" echoed in my brain:

"To my friends and colleagues at MySpace, some parting advice:
It is imperative that MySpace puts in place strong technical leadership who can attract good technical talent and make well-informed decisions. It is important that they stay connected to rest of the world and work on interoperable standards and solid products which benefit the end user. Many of my fellow engineers have fantastic ideas and a plan for phased delivery."
So,here it goes.

Dear Administrator,

I was thinking that really you could replace Myspace with YOUR DISTRICT or SCHOOL name and also instead of end user - we should replace it with students - so this is how it would read with my words inserted in the paragraph:

"To my friends and colleagues at ________ (fill in your school or district)...
It is imperative that _____________ (your school or district) puts in place strong technical leadership who can attract good technical talent and make well-informed decisions. It is important that they stay connected to the rest of the world and work on interoperable ________(curriculum) and solid ___________ (projects) which benefit the ___________ (student.) Many of my fellow ____________ (educators) have fantastic ideas and a plan for phased delivery."

This is not only a prescription for myspace but for My School and Your School as Well. I challenge you to write in your information and read it out loud to yourself, NOW.  In this short paragraph is the core of what you should consider as you prepare to improve your school and district's use of technology.

  1. Strong Technical Leadership - this is not just about a grasp of the technology but also realizing that effective technological change requires people-centric implementation. It is often not how the technology works as much as how people feel about how the technology works.

  2. Good Technical Talent - the more technical talent you have, the better.  Teachers, IT integrators, principals. But even if you do NOT have a lot of technical talent, if you involve lifelong learners in your pilot programs you can spend your Learning capital well. 

    (Learning capital is something I've really pondered this weekend as I wrestled with my thoughts for the TICAL keynote on Wednesday - and it is created as people are part of implementing a new technology as part of a pilot or rollout - you want to spend learning capital well by involving key people who will give you a RETURN on the investment by sharing with others.)

    Additionally, good technical talent can and should save you money. They can implement a Linux operating system or take you into cloud computing. If they won't even discuss those two options, perhaps you should reconsider if they are really good technical talent.  Good technical talent is beholden to you and your district and NOT a particular vendor. They are always willing to get bids.

  3. Make Well Informed Decisions - not based on hype and for goodness sakes NOT on newspaper articles.  Since I've really been digging deep into technology, I've found that nine times out of ten that what a newspaper is hyping is either "Old news" or "no news" -- something outdated or that someone is trying to sell that most leaders have been doing for some time -- or really, something that a good school would do anyway that isn't much of any news for those who follow tech integration.  Follow good Technology magazines and websites rather than your local newspaper. Build and use your PLN (personal learning network)  Talk with other educators who are doing this. (Thus the value of Twitter.) Make up your own mind instead of letting one or two people make it up for you.  (As the saying goes, if two men always agree, one of them is NOT NECESSARY.)

  4. Stay Connected to the Rest of the World - Build a PLN (personal learning network) including blogs, mainstream media, and well-constructed RSS feeds for search terms important to you (like your school name.) If you don't know how to do this - have someone come to your office and teach you THIS WEEK.  Ask them to help you set up an RSS reader.  Then, take 15 minutes at least three times a week to READ IT! Learn. Try new things. Don't get "not invented here" syndrome by thinking that you have all the answers.  If you think you have all the answers... you don't. If you know you don't have all the answers, then you're someone we can all learn from.
  5. Interoperable curriculum

    "Rather than dealing with each technology in isolation, we would do better to take an ecological approach, think about the interrelationships among different communications technologies, the cultural communities that group up around them, and the activities they support."  Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture [PDF] - McArthur Foundation

    Yes, interoperable.  Interoperable with other schools and the world. (Do you honestly think that you can wall in your school grades k-12 and give them a leading world-class education?  If so, See #4 about having all the answers. It is sort of like these olympic teams only racing themselves.)  Interoperable in that how well do departments, classes, grades work together - is there a seamless transition as you promote students?

  6. Solid Projects - Develop long term relationships and ongoing year in -year out projects with other schools so that your teachers have relationships and strong learning experiences come out of the project.  Not just "window dressing" meaningful collaboration is vital to a good education and as one who sets up this sort of thing every day -- this doesn't just "happen" but is the product of hard work and pushing to get to that point. This is global collaboration, community collaboration, multi-grade level collaboration - all of these things!

  7. Benefiting the student - This is about students, my friends.  Not being convenient for the IT department or making life easier for curriculum or even making it so the principal has less headaches.  (My husband, an engineer calls this suboptimization.  Suboptimization means you've made one department or group very efficient but also means that rarely is such a suboptimization best for the organization as a whole  This is where the stress comes in and where a superintendent and principal must make the call.  Don't let IT rule just because they are using terms you don't know.  IT should not have complete control over the sites used on campus - that is often better decided by curriculum.)

    This is about our students.  I am convinced that much of our problem is that schools have the wrong customer.  Our customer are the students when they are about 25 or so.  Will they look back and say that they received a good education? Will they thank us?  This is not a popularity contest with today's students - give them a choice and they'll choose recess.  It is a matter of what benefits the students and where the world is heading.  And massive global collaboration is where it is now as well as where it is going. Mastering social media is where it is now and where it is going. Virtual worlds and gaming are definitely part of where it is going as well as GPS, QR Codes and all manner of things that aren't even on the radar of most educators yet.  But again, making students PART of the transformation is flattening the classroom and also spending learning capital well - with those who can help us transform our schools as they move from grade to grade.

  8. Harness the Power of Those You Have - You have people on staff who will help you with these things NOW. If you want to kill morale, bring in an outside consultant to tell you to do what those on your staff have been saying you should do for some time.  Put aside your preconceived notions about their agendas and invite them into your office and listen for thirty minutes to an hour.  Listen, take notes, make eye contact, ask questions. If you do this with your staff, I guarantee you that you will see a common pattern emerge and your action plan for the next six months, year, and 3 years.  It is right there.  LISTEN.  LEARN. ACT. (For that matter, why not pull in a variety of students.)  Flatten the progression towards excellence by involving everyone.
So,  administrators, right now my mind and heart is on you. Likely due to the twenty something hours I've spent working and reworking the 21st Century Influencer Keynote I'll be giving in Arkansas on Wednesday.  You have a tough job, but one that is important.  Each member on the team of educators is vital: teachers (I love you!), IT Directors (you rock), Curriculum Directors (some smart people), Principals (thankless job) and Superintendents (sleepless nights?)

Appreciate and recognize that you need each other.  And think of me... as you read this I'll be heading out to Tallahassee FL in the hopes that planes will take off and leave from there on time on Tuesday!



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Daily Spotlight on Education 02/16/2010




Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Monday, February 15, 2010

What Do Students Know?



In the PhysOrg.com article What Do Students Know? it basically underlines the fear that many have about the way that we are testing.  Granted, this is a niche area, (astrophysics) but we're teaching the names of planets and basic items, and yet students (and their teachers) have the following misconceptions:
  • They think there is no gravity in space.
  • They think that space telescopes are put in space to get them "closer."
  • The don't know that the sun is a star.
  • They think that there are stars closer than Pluto besides the sun.
Other findings:

"The SAO researchers studied how these apparently seductive misconceptions could distract students away from choosing the correct answer in multiple-choice tests. They argue that such "distractors" should be included in evaluation tests but note that most often are not, and therefore that results from tests designed to measure student understanding are misleading, and that evaluation of the pedagogy is therefore inadequate. The team also found that teachers across the board overestimate their students' understanding of basic ideas, in part because of emphasizing detailed memorization over basic conceptual understanding as probed by misconceptions."


I went down each of these misconceptions and asked my eighth grade daughter.  Whew! She passed. I find it in interesting that we only standardize test at our school ONCE A YEAR. That is right. The curriculum director keeps up with where everyone is and what they are learning. So many teachers say that the best time of the year for REALLY teaching is when standardized testing is over. 

"Then I can teach what is really important," Said a friend to me lately.

Another friend was saddened by a boy that was dropping out on his sixteenth birthday.

"You can't teach me anything I need to know for the real world," he told her.

And she agreed with me privately.  She said that she knew he said he was dropping out and since she did math, she wanted to teach him to balance his checkbook and things that would help him function - instead she had to focus on the test he had to take before he left and he sat in the chair in a faceoff refusing to write a thing.

I believe in academic rigor. I believe in excellence. But I also believe in doing right by the generation that is coming.  My heart ached as I read the biography of John Newton, former slave trader turned minister and writer and author of the hymn "Amazing Grace." Despite the fact that he had memorized pages of amazing literature and learning and could do incredible math in his head, when Newton's mother died and he was transferred to a boarding school, it was said:

"His first teacher there was a sadistic wielder of the cane. 'His imprudent severity almost broke my spirit and my relish for books.... I forgot the first principles and rules of arithmetic which my mother taught me,' recalled Newton. However, his second teacher noticed that the boy had considerable ability. netwon came top of his class in Latin, which in that year's syllabus required studies of Virgil and Tully." (Kindle 5811 John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace)

Sometimes classroom control is mistaken for a positive learning environment.  And sometimes chaos is misdiagnosed as a lax classroom. There are times my classroom looks like a complete and utter theater of the absurd. When we are shooting film, when we're doing group brainstorming, when we're having team meetings.  Often when Coach Ross comes into my room to observe, I feel like I have to apologize.  But, he knows me and he just listens in and can see what we're doing.  (As I tell my students, EVERYTHING has a purpose in my room, EVERYTHING.)

In the state of Georgia, they have found evidence to up to a 20% tamper rate on state standardized tests.  When the news came out, I was at the bank and overhead some people talking:

"We know that school is an awful school - the test scores don't line up with what we know."

So, the question isn't just what do students know?  It is "What do you know?" When I read the book Freakonomics and the statistician proved the statistical likelihood that most teachers who have outstanding results CHEAT, I was disgusted.  

Testing has a value - but also observation.  A well written 3 page lesson plan is not proof that the teacher is doing ANYTHING. In fact, every scrap of paper generated by teachers should be analyzed to see how it is used. From my own experience, I had a headmaster who I had to write ornate, well documented lesson plans. I spent at least 2 hours a day on the lesson plans and they were beautiful! Too bad that it took a lot of time away from planning.  When my administration changed we were told -- No formal lesson plans for us - but you should have your notes and your lesson plans FOR YOURSELF. Spend your time planning for TEACHING and we'll be in there to see what you're doing.  We'll be in there a lot. 

That, my friends was when I started using wikis with my students (Dec 2005) and the following year was when Flat Classroom was born. (Oct 2006) In fact, I could argue that if I had to continue writing lesson plans in that detail that you would never have heard of Cool Cat Teacher and Flat Classroom - they would have been buried in the useless practicum of writing a lesson plan that NO ONE EVER READ! 

I would actually hypothesize that there could be an inverse relationship between teaching excellence and the amount of paperwork required by teachers to document what they are doing.

I've been thinking back on the movie Avatar and the log files that they created.  You learn so much about the character by how he looks as he records those log files. If I were in administration, I'd much rather have a 2 minute video log where the teacher talked about what they are covering and their major issues and appended to the log a random clip from their classroom that day. I'd like to have a word cloud made out of discipline records and open ended teacher comments - that would show me my major discipline issues and contexts on one page and a lot about the problems a teacher is having in the classroom.  With only 20% of communications being verbal, requiring that feedback to the "front office" be in only written form, we're only getting 20% of the picture, I would think.  It is time for reflection and feedback and communications to evolve to the multiple modalities we are trying to put in the classroom. 

Additionally, I love how 8D world is one of the most popular educational sites in China for teaching kids to speak English and it uses a microphone and verbal speaking to allow advancement in levels.  This game isn't even being used in schools but has evolved online and parents pay for it.  (They are planning to go to Korean, Spanish, Portuguese, and Russian soon.)

This is an alternative method of feedback.  So, how do we "test" languages?  I can tell you that I can read Spanish very well but orally - I cannot speak it nor can I understand it.  What good did 2 years of Spanish do for me? My tests were all written. My assessment was all written.  You get what you measure.

Until we take a hard look at what we're measuring and if that is what we really want, we're going to continue to get students who don't know that the Sun is a star and think that there is no gravity in space.

If the test is broken, who fixes that?

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy "Valentimes"



So, today is the ten year anniversary of the St. Valentines Day tornadoes that devastated my precious hometown of Camilla, Georgia. In church this morning some videos and photographs were shared from that time which brought on flashbacks and brought memories to my mind that I wasn't really prepared to handle.

When I see the frivolity around this day for many, it just leaves me feeling that the point is totally missed.

My precious eight year old ran into the den and threw his arms around my neck and said "Happy Valetimes, Mommy" and plopped a quick smack upon my lips.

Valen-times

Yes, that pretty much sums it up. With the tornado and the 22 deaths and 250 homes destroyed, I learned that the time is short. One second my town was quiet and at peace and the next moment a freight train of three monstrous tornadoes were tearing through homes and lives like a ravenous dog into a poorly closed trash can.

I shall relish the time. My husband is sitting here playing his favorite shooter-game (since my oldest is off skiing this weekend), my daughter is reading Twilight in her room (for the 20th time) and my eight year old is quietly tucked in bed with Crispy the cat asleep on the couch next to me and Boots at the foot of the bed in my bedroom. The heater is humming quietly and I'm listening to Josh Groban with my new noise canceling headphones I'm testing for the LOOOONNNG airline trip to Mumbai this Saturday.

And yet, these are the times. I treasure them. Like a beautiful flower - if I crush this time in my hand and hold too tightly the experience will be destroyed. I sort of have to sit back and enjoy it and peer at it. Smell the fragrance of the pear crisp candle burning on my coffee table and the leftover carrot cake that I need to carry to the kitchen. These times don't last.

Sort of like the lovely poem, Laughter in the Walls, where the author talks about storing up memories so that when his kids are gone, he says of his house:

"But it won't be empty.
Every corner, every room,
every nick in the coffee table
will be crowded
with memories.
Memories of picnics,
parties, Christmases,
bedside vigils, summers,
fires, winters, going barefoot,
leaving for vacation, cats,
conversations, black eyes,
graduations, first dates,
ball games, arguments,
washing dishes, bicycles,
dogs, boat rides,
getting home from vacation,
meals, rabbits,
and a thousand other things
that fill the lives
of those who would raise five.

And Peg and I
will sit quietly by the fire
and listen to the
laughter in the walls."

Yes.

I will hold these things and remember.

These are things I cannot nor shall I give up. I shall not live life with fear, but I shall live life with tenderness. With the knowledge that times don't stay stagnant and that time passes. Nothing is permanent. Things change.

It is not about morbid pondering of future pain and loss but about a deep inhalation of the times, flavors, and colors of these loves while I am surrounded by them so that when things change and they are not near that in my mind, still, I may hold their fragrance dear.

Happy Valentimes Day, my friends. Drink deeply. Live deeply. Love passionately. Remember fondly. And throw all you have into these times so that you may live the rest of your life with happy memories and no regrets.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Daily Spotlight on Education 02/13/2010




Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Must View Slideshow on Engaging Presentations and Lectures




I agree with Garr Reynolds, Brain Rules is a great book. I wish more presenters and teachers would read the book AND view this presentation.  Garr is such a great presenter and his book Presentation Zen is an important book for all presenters to read.  I love how he relates presentation skills to the Brain research from John Medina.  Share this presentation!

When I see really good presentations like this "Out of the box" presentation, I think to myself "I want to do that."



Then, I open up those slides and start editing.  Perhaps one of the most important things about working on presentations was quoted in Garr Reynold's presentation at the top -- that to put together a really good presentation that you must get OFF THE GRID. Disconnect. Think.  Challenge yourself.

Often the best content for presentations is written in my journal in the mornings when I allow myself no technology and a couple of good smelling candles, my Bible, Bible Study book, and journal. (perhaps the most important connection of my day.)

Sometimes I write them on airplanes after my battery has died - and those are often very good.  I always WRITE first and THEN go into powerpoint.  I would not say I've arrived, but that I've come further than I was and am moving ahead to become better than I am now.

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Daily Spotlight on Education 02/12/2010




Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Immersing in all things India: The India Immersion Project



In eleven days I, Mrs. Betty (my dear friend the curriculum director) and seven students will head to Mumbai India for ASB Unplugged and the Flat Classroom mini-conference. And we're taking a whole heap of 2nd through 8th graders with us.

Meet the India Immersion project.  Inspired by Silvia Tolisano's Travel Through Space and Time Presentation in the K12 Online 2007, the students are "traveling" with us to and through India in what we hope will be a powerful vicarious learning experience.  In vicarious learning, you learn by watching another.

Each of us has a classroom that we will email and skype with while we are there. We have a private wiki (sorry, with the young children there, it MUST be private) where we are sharing the voicethreads (grades 2-5) and links to classblogmeister (grades 6-8) where students will be sharing.

My tenth grade computer science class are the self-named "Indie-techs" (a double meaning there - they are independent and also focusing on Indi-a.)  These students are administering the blogs and voicethreads, helping and training teachers, and facilitating the technology part of this project.  While they do this, they are developing leadership skills, troubleshooting, and problem solving.  While I'm nervous, I do know that these students always exceed my expectations and I truly believe that it will be a powerful learning experience.

More than that, the technology is really an ancillary - a means of expression. The amazing teachers here have planned incredible intense experiences.  Our middle school teacher-leader has reorganized the schedule so that students get vital academic subjects in the mornings and beginning at noon each day, students move to multi-age groupings for deep learning experiences for the entire afternoon.  Each teacher on the project has an expertise (literature teacher - the literature of India; history - the history of India; math - currency conversion and distance calculations; science - animal life and topography -- and even more) -- the student groups will rotate between the groups and also email with their assigned traveler daily.  We've set up several skype times and the fifth grade has a "scavenger hunt" of things for us to find.

This has been a tremendous undertaking led by our incredible curriculum director of which I am just a small part, however, it is gaining momentum and I'm excited to see what happens.  Vicarious learning has long been held as one of the most powerful modes of helping people change long held beliefs (as a way to help people recover completely from phobias as per Bandura's research on people with snake phobias.)

So, several of you have asked me on Twitter about this "India Immersion" project.  I hope that we will have a few things to share after we're over and my student travelers will have several blog posts on our public World Wide Wildcats blog where we chronicle travels we take as part of our Flat Classroom project experiences.

This is only the beginning and will transcend the origins in technology.

So, I've spent the evening purchasing the last of the items I need for traveling to India and am about to pack up this laptop to spend some time with my wonderful dear husband who supports me so much in all these endeavors.  So much has changed and as of this morning almost 30,000 of you are subscribing to these travels into the Flat Classroom here on the Cool Cat Teacher blog.

I'll keep you posted and just want to take a moment to tell you thank you for the encouragement and many things you all have taught me along the way.  When you open up your classroom and share, powerful things can happen and are happening to many of us out here.

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Daily Spotlight on Education 02/11/2010




Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Honor Society



"...for knowledge is worth more than anything there is in the world; it's what makes great men and good men; you'll be a great man and a good man yourself, some day, Thomas, and then you'll look back and say... it's all owing to my dear teachers that taught me to learn -- it's all owing to the good superintendent, who encouraged me, and watched over me..."

Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain, Kindle location 604

Sometimes we teach students about life amidst our humanness...

Ponderings on Tuesday Night
So, I've tried to play with Google Buzz, the new gmail inbox morphing social media-ish way to do email.  I wasn't that excited about Google Wave, but from reading about Google Buzz am more excited.  Unfortunately, you can't "get" Buzz - it has to be given to you - so I'm waiting (and trying the "cut in line" method advocated by PC World.)

And yet... I keep thinking about National Honor Society initiation this morning...

I headed over to Facebook just to feel overwhelmed with friend requests, etc.   Too many decisions, so I left there also. Thought about messing with Scrapblog - the super cool Flash based scrapbook making tool that will only get cooler with all the money they just raised to enhance their services.

And still... National Honor Society initiation keeps coming back to mind...

I keep getting messages from a customer service rep with PowerSchool (obviously in India because I couldn't get a reply during the day for the life of me) telling me to use the Faq that I've been trying to use to get the email to send grades to parents. (It stopped working last Thursday.) Sometimes I feel like some customer care reps when they get to me press "Send" and then run out the door to go home.  All this technology has not made customer service better, that is for sure.

And my thoughts keep returning to the National Honor Society initiation this morning...

Now...

I'm on gmail - gtalking with my sister and giving her thoughts on a sign she's working on.  (Love the chance to keep my marketing skills used.)   National  And chatting with my dear friend Wendy on Facebook - we've just planned to drop our kids off at church and hit the coffee shop for 20 minutes before we have to be back at church tomorrow.  Honor (I noticed how Facebook chat causes my computer to be nonresponsive for about 6 seconds after a facebook chat comes through -- hmmm.) Society


OK, About the National Honor Society Initiation Already!
But I keep returning to this morning to the National Honor Society ceremony where I messed up. (How could you tell I'm upset?) I didn't get to set up yesterday for the event or I would have caught it. Nothing seemed to go right. I couldn't set up because of a late night meeting at the school. It was raining - I was running late.  The photo frames for the certificates didn't fit, so I had to just give them certificates (or I would have caught my mistake when I had one extra frame.)  I checked everything - my National Honor Society students helped me with everything and are just wonderful.

The only problem is that I messed up.

There was one thing that I had to do and only I had to do --- print out the certificates.  And, I did the unthinkable.

I left out a student. He was there. He was in line.  He was responding and reciting his words.  And as soon as I gave out the certificate of the person before him I realized what I had done. I had forgotten his certificate.  It wasn't intentional.  I had printed it but it had messed up and I didn't print another. I screwed up.

I had to admit my mistake to everyone watching... parents, etc. everyone! I made a comment, they laughed.  I MESSED UP!  I was embarrassed but even worse, he was embarrassed too!  And he didn't even do anything. It wasn't his fault. It was my fault.  And nothing I can do can undo what I did. It was an honest, human mistake and I screwed up.

He was affable as were his parents. They were forgiving and so very gracious. But I still know I did something horrible. Something I cannot redo. Something I cannot undo.  Something that he'll probably remember for a while if not for the rest of his life.  HOW COULD I?

What we live with daily
And my friends, this is a window into the life of a teacher. I'm so sorry that I made a mistake. I'm printing another one and getting it for him (to add insult to injury, the nice laser ran out of ink and I couldn't do it immediately!)

But here is the point... we are teachers. We do things daily like this that mark the lives of those we work with.  And in our humanness we mess up.  We do.

The difference between us and business people is that they may mess up a product and throw it away, but we are dealing with eternal beings here. We are working with the material of eternal soul - people who have feelings and emotions and deserve our respect and love.  And we are human. Oh, so human!

This precious young man deserves a perfect National Honor Society advisor. A perfect teacher. He deserves one. He needs one. One who doesn't screw up and who doesn't forget the certificate and triple checks and doesn't do such a thing.  But, he doesn't have such a perfect person -- he has me.  And I screw up.  And, boy, did I screw up today.

Teachers mistakes live forever magnified by memories and often increased over time the hurts we cause, often through our flawed humanness.

FEELING the Pain
Some of you will say I'm being too hard on myself. But I'm a teacher and am empathetic. I FEEL what it would be like to be him and have an adviser do that.  It HURTS me.

And that, my friends in this human state is the essence of what we can do.  As teachers we need to:

1- Understand that we make mistakes.

2 - Admit it
Don't try to cover it up or excuse it. Be up front and ask for forgiveness.

3 - Empathize
Feel our mistake from their perspective. We cannot pay, we cannot give penance but we can know in our hearts that we understand and feel the pain of what we've done. I will not shed that pain. I will forgive myself and seek God's forgiveness and that of the student - but it is ok to feel what I've done. Perhaps it will impress upon my soul the importance of paying better attention next time and not messing up.

4 - Correct
Correct myself and take steps to not let it happen again. NEVER AGAIN.  At least it can be my goal.

5 - Love
The measure and forgiveness I use with my students will be measured back to me when these things happen. If I'm harsh and unforgiving then, when I make these mistakes they will be harsh and unforgiving with me, at least in their hearts.

I don't know what this can teach or tell you except that this is serious business - this teaching, advising, coaching thing that so many of us do who crowd around this web log to discuss what it means to educate our students and our children.

We are humans educating humans and more than ever I feel the importance of my noble calling.

And more than ever I feel the heaviness of my heart when I let one of these precious students and myself down. I will get over this and forgive myself... but not right now. It still keeps returning to my mind - amidst all of the hustle of things I'm doing online.

But, then I return to this quote from Tom Sawyer excerpted at the beginning of this post:

"for knowledge is worth more than anything there is in the world; it's what makes great men and good men"

And sometimes the knowledge we impart to our students is that even the most well meaning, empathetic, loving person among us messes up and needs their complete, undeserving forgiveness. And the giving of such forgiveness, my friends, is what does make great men and women.

Greatness Embodied
Great men and women are not carried down by resentments of the past.  They forgive even when it is not deserving and they move on.  And this student and his parents, for their generosity and kindness I am forever grateful. They could have "torn me up" as we say in the South, but they didn't. They forgave me (at least I think they did.)  I am grateful for their graciousness.

And this young man, with his kindness and forgiveness, perhaps ended this day with the greatest Honor of all.  The honor of glimpsing what it means to be great. He and his parents are truly members of the Honor Society in my book.

The honor and nobility of forgiveness given though not deserved.  The honor and nobility of kindness when anger was deserved.  The greatness of love when fury could have been bestowed.  The Honor Society.

Even amidst our mistakes, perhaps especially during our mistakes, the greatest of life's lessons are taught and shared.

Remember your noble calling Teacher, Parent, Principal, Superintendent.  Join the Honor Society.  Forgiveness is truly your admittance into the Honor Society.  Join today by giving someone what they do NOT deserve - your unmerited forgiveness. (You might just make it a habit.)

Photo Attribution: Gurdonark All is Forgiven




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Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Reviving the Dream



"Sardis was a city of peace, not the peace won through battle, but the peace of a man whose dreams are dead and whose mind is asleep, the peace of lethargy and evasion,"

I came across this quote while studying Revelation and no- this is not a "Bible" lesson per se, but one about dreams. This previous quote was from William Barclay in his Letters to the Seven Churches (New York: Abigdon, 1957), 71 as cited in Gabelein and Douglas, The Expositor's Bible Commentary, 448.

These words completely haunted me as I pondered them. 

How many people do you know who have silently let their dreams die and their minds go to sleep?


Do you know someone who has the peace of lethargy and evasion?

This has many terms:

"He's biding his time."

"She's just waiting until retirement."

"I'm stuck, so I might as well make the best of it."

Now, you and I have sacrifices to make and truthfully, some days I question myself.  We all teeter sometimes on lethargy.  When you've given so much that you literally do not have anything else to give.  When everything you've tried fails miserably. When you are in an untenable situation with a person who not only "doesn't get it" but makes our life a living hell. 

Langston Hughes, the American poet says:

"Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die

Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.


Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow."
I've seen dreams die - in my own life - in my own home. When I became a teacher, I felt like my dream of having a successful business was going by the wayside.  But, I knew for many reasons (most of which I felt God's calling) that teaching was where I was go.  So, in this case, one dream died, but then another was born -- in my own heart I realized that my goal would be to build one of the best technology programs in the world.  Oh, that sounds ostentatious, but it was something I'd say even in assemblies and to my students. At first, I'd get several snickers -- and then less.  Now, finally, the students know - we do have one of the best.  And now the dream is for more.

You have dreams.  Maybe you're not where you thought you would be at this point in your life -- but who is?  If we knew everything that would happen before it happened, what would be the point?  For me, this is the power in adjusting myself each morning to God and his purpose for me.  Taking petitions to him.  Asking for his wisdom - my dream is that when I'm done, He'll say "well done."

But this is such a message for us.  I think that whatever your faith- whoever you are -- take this moment to look at yourself.

Do you have the peace that comes from lethargy and evasion?  Have you become "comfortably numb?" (To coin the title of a Pink Floyd song?)

Purpose is something we long for and indeed most great leaders are characterized as having "vision" by those who survey the traits of leaders.  Vision is seeing a dream and making it a goal -- having purpose for the organization and in being a part of such an organization the people have purpose.  Being a part of something bigger than yourself.  Having a purpose.

For me... I have to keep asking myself - what is my purpose? Why am I here?  What is the very best use of my time at this moment (Brian Tracy calls it the "Focal Point" in his amazing book of the same name.)  For truthfully our moments make our hours, our hours make our days, our days make our months and years and years make our lives.  You are what you eat, but even more so, you are what you do.

And what you do begins with those dreams.  Taking the dreams and turning them into actionable items - identifying the things you must do to get there -- clarifying the values that lead you to desire that dream to make sure it is in line with who you are.  These are the hallmarks of the greatest, most productive people of our time. And sometimes those people don't have their faces on the cover of a  magazine or on the bestseller list.  Be careful of defining success as the world sees it -for truly the front pages of the world's magazines and newspapers only have a limited space and often that space goes to the most controversial and sick among us -- not something I'd want.

I've started reading Greater Than Yourself by Steve Farber as recommended by my dear friend Angela Maiers and in this book I'm finding the purpose that this whole post is about.  It is about finding others and having the humility to help them become greater - perhaps even than "you" are.  In fact, this book is hugely appealing to teachers because that is truly our calling and our destiny -- in our seats we have students that will surpass us.  Students who will do great things.  I look at each student and say to myself, "When this child's autobiography is written will I be an antagonist or will I be a mentor? Will I be a person that marked them in a positive way?"  Oh, let it be positive?

There are teachers who are bullies! There are teachers who harm their beautiful, precious charges.  There are administrators who do the same -- but also my friends -- there are legions and legions of incredible, loving, wonderful teachers who have a heart to help these students become greater than we will ever be.

Today, as you look at yourself - as you examine your life.  As you ponder these thoughts I challenge you do this:

As these questions:

Do you have any dreams that are worth dying for?  

If so, you've just found the dream worth living for!

Do you have any principles and beliefs that you'd give everything for?

If so, you've just found the principles and beliefs you are living for!

If you're bound in the lethargy and evasion that has you considering why you are even here, then pick up a book of encouragement.  The definition of insanity is to continue doing the same thing and expect different results!  If a car is in a rut, we change something - going back and forth in the muddy clay only makes the car more stuck.  We all get in ruts and have to use leverage to get ourselves out.

The leverage of excellent thoughts-- find books, tapes, anything to help you refocus and see what you need to do. Seek wisdom.  But most importantly - don't have a pity party. These are the things ALL of us experience.  If someone says they have it all together - they lie.  Someone on Twitter told me today that they "have never held a grudge." Well, if that is so, then that person is perfect. We are so fallible and human we all make mistakes. We hold grudges and we screw up.  But getting back up is the common denominator of the successful!

But the greatest mistake is to see yourself falling into the trap of a dangerous thought pattern of hopelessness and to NOT do something about it.

Oh, my friends - teaching is a noble calling. Educating our future is a noble calling. Raising your children and grandchildren is a noble calling!  You have a purpose!  Helping technology be put to good uses that empowr and  improve mankind is a noble calling!  Look beyond yourself and into yourself and find it!  If you understand your own nobility - you begin to act more noble. Not in arrogance but in service. Not in self-centerness but in unselfish service of others. 

Keep the faith and know that if you are here on this planet - YOU Have a purpose!

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Daily Spotlight on Education 02/09/2010



  • Geolocation overview from Marshall Kirkpatrick at the Read Write Web. Marshall says:

    "The era of location-as-platform for software development is just beginning. No longer of interest only to uber-geeks, everyday people are now reporting their physical locations online, often through their phones. Geolocation services are hot and ever more prominent ones (like Facebook) are believed to be right around the corner.

    This is a very exciting development for lovers of innovation. Today we asked some of our favorite web-heads why they are excited about geolocation and below you'll find their answers. We hope you'll share with us what you too, dear readers, think of this hot new trend online."

    tags: education, learning, geolocation, gps

  • I just ordered this book on my Kindle - from Angela Maiers:

    "Greater Than Yourself, the latest inspiration of his Extreme Leadership series of books, is a book every administrator, leader, teacher, and student (yes, them too!) should read. Now. It is a game-changing book. So much so, that educational and business leaders from coast-to-coast and in-between have been gathering as part of a GTY Summit discussing ways to deliver the GTY principles into school buildings and classrooms all over the globe. "

    tags: education, learning, leadership


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Monday, February 08, 2010

A Peek into Cool Cat Teacher's Classroom Right Now



Some really exciting things happened this past week. Just thought I'd share with you today about some of the things happening in my classroom in the hopes that there may be something to ponder here for you.  It is every day to me, so really, none of it seems particularly revolutionary... that is unless I compare it to what my room looked like about four years a go before my teaching model and tools transformed.

8th Grade Keyboarding
I still use the Old textbook my Mom used. (She founded this computer lab!) We don't use any video game or tools until the entire keyboard is learned. Here, five weeks into the semester they are about to have learned all of the keys.  They had their first timed writings last week and have already hit 49 words per minute as their average. This is largely because we teach in fifth grade (pre-puberty) although then, they average around 27 words per minute.

We do team goals and I have an excel spreadsheet to total everything. I reward the students when the class hits a 10 point mark (i.e. when they hit 50 words per minute, the class receives a reward.)  I find that this motivates everyone and helps those who may be slower see their value and stay motivated while those who are faster are also pushed to do more as well.

We will start playing Typershark this week and also have the typershark Olympics. (Where I split them into even teams and they compete to see which team can get the most total points in a class period.)  Typershark helps with accuracy.  (See: Keyboarding: The Hidden Giant of Web 2.0)

Keyboarding isn't "sexy" but when my students average 70 words per minute with the slowest around 40 words per minute - there is a huge difference in what we can accomplish.  After trying everything, the old fashioned book method is by far the best method for teaching typing.  They cannot look at their hands and I think that the software encourages this when used too soon.

9th Grade Computer Fundamentals
Students have been finishing up their Time Magazine cross-curricular project with the composition teacher and I'm preparing to take them into ClickSmarttm (my intuitive method for learning software that basically gives a method for learning ANY new software - hope to have a book deal signed on this method this week.) They are finishing up their online portfolios in Weebly and then we're getting ready to move to our private island on ReactionGrid.

I think I'm most excited about the new formatting of OpenSim private islands and had an amazing tutorial session this week with Robin Gomboy, co founder of ReactionGrid. The students in tenth grade have packed up their inventory for moving to the private grid. (Don't worry, we're still leaving Digiteen Island and other grids on the public grid on ReactionGrid for you to tour.) (See: A Tour of Digiteen Island)

But, here is the most amazing thing -- there are these things called Oar Files (Open Sim Archive) which basically pack up everything on a grid so that it can be transported. I shared some links last week to places where these files can be found. But this is what it means:  we can work on Digiteen Island one week, then I can take it and pack it up and save it on my virtual server (which I log into with Microsoft RemoteConsole) - then, I just unpack the next region for use the next day! 

So, what does this mean in layman's terms? OK, so you could build A Tale of Two Cities complete with avatars and actions (which could be packaged in boxes) and buildings - everything.  After you are done, you take it and package it up into a file (the Oar file) and then you save it somewhere or post it where I can download it.  I download it onto my server and then take a blank region on my grid and unpack it - -I now can take my students into a fully functional Paris and can assign avatars (they just put on the clothing and dress) and "bang" there we go.  I can share with you also!

Furthermore, if Oar files aren't enough - with hypergridding, there is a way to make these virtual spaces go public and linked to other worlds and then take it back offline again. I don't understand how hypergridding works but only what it does.  The beautiful thing is that with the prices and also with development of tools like Sloodle (Simulation Linked Object Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment) - Oar Files, OpenSim, Sloodle and then companies like ReactionGrid making Opensim available with virtual server accesss - suddenly this all becomes very affordable and doable. When normal average educators (like me - I'd put myself in that category) realize how we can use this and what it can do I think there will be explosive growth!

Then, in the midst of this we will do some SAT prep (yes, in 9th grade learning to take "that test" is important.

10th Computer Science
We're working and planning the India Immersion project.This has taken an overwhelming amount of time, but the students are serving as support for our teachers in grades 2-8.  As Mrs.Betty (my curriculum director) and I take seven students to Mumbai for ASB Unplugged, each of us has an assigned classroom to email, voicethread, blog, and Skype with as we travel.

The students are going to immerse in everything India, from calculating exchange rates to mapping skills to science and history of the area.  We have guest speakers from India coming in to classrooms and these students are planning the technology support piece of this massive undertaking.The teachers are planning this and the students are supporting as the teachers need and request. This is in support of vicarious learning - or learning by watching others do things. This is powerful learning as discussed in Influencer: The Power to Change Anything.

One class is working on Skype - the other on Voicethread (for grades 2-5) and Classblogmeister (for grades 6-8.) Students have just completed their personal efolios on Weebly and when I return we will do some SAT prep as well. Our student project manager (PM) for this is also going to be doing some presenting as well. 

Also, one of my expert OpenSim students is helping me set up the new users for the new virtual private grid on ReactionGrid.  Talk about great experience!

This is an outstanding class that will be participating in NetGenEd project soon.

I have another class to share but right now, I've got to run.  Hope that the insight into what is happening.  All of these projects include deep learning experiences which not only include technology but leadership, organization, management, psychology, and some heavy problem solving.  The rubrics often have to be general in that each student may have a completely different task. I often feel like I'm back in the businessworld with many projects and tasks whirling around my desk -- meetings with student groups -- sometimes we are using my Ipevo skype phone to have "conference calls" with experts from around the world who are helping them with something. 

They know they are good and they are equipped to meet any technological challenge, however, it is so much more than about the technology but about the multitasking management mentality that will take them ahead in this complex world.



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Saturday, February 06, 2010

Battle for the Eyes



The battle for the eyes is getting heated. If you'll read Context is King: How Videos Are Found and Consumed Online, some very telling trends are unveiled that make advertisers very uncomfortable. The article says:

"According to a recent NY Times article, in the 1952-53 season, more than 30% of American households watched NBC during prime time, according to Nielsen.  In fact, up until twenty years ago, you could buy a 30-second spot on CBS, NBC or ABC and reach “everyone.”  Today, NBC’s prime time reach is 5%.  Sure, NBC is lagging CBS and ABC, but neither the Tiffany network nor Disney’s counterpart is faring much better.  The secret’s out: fewer people watch TV and teenagers spend every waking minute connected to the Internet, increasingly through the mobile web."

So, how are these ads going to be served up? Cell phones, social media.

Other interesting stats.  Here are the averages of a youtube video:

  • "It will garner 500 views over time
  • 25% of those views will come in the first four days and
  • by and large, only the first 30 to 60 seconds will be watched."
So, what we see is a very drastically changing market for advertisers where the old time "media buy" of the 1990's is now a much more complex tool. We'll also see that niche markets with their eyes on a specific site will be reached out to by companies and vendors.  Also, for schools, I think it means that we'll have to be wary of free as this can also mean that we control the eyes and attention of students for a pretty good chunk of the day for students. We must guard that responsibility and realize that the game has changed for advertisers.

This also means that advertisers could potentially partner with and support valid educational programs to reach the eyes of the students they covet.  It seems like there can be some win-win scenarios here for both, however, the whole thought makes me very nervous.


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