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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Podcasting on WOW2 tonight - And a podcast about a classroom that is beginning to blog.

Tonight at 9 pm EST we have the TechPodzone guys on the WOW2 show at edtechtalk. It will be a fascinating discussion about the use of podcasting in the classroom but also they have started blogging within the past week and are seeing some amazing results. Hope you can join us.

I've been listening to the recent TechPodZone show about their beginning use of blogs in a history classroom, IM speak, and other Web 2.0 topics. It is a great show!

Here is the great quote that I love from Mike that his student said:

"We're learning from each other and we don't really even need the teacher on this one."

Flat Classrooms Everywhere - Post the hyperlink to yours!

While over at the reflective teacher, I perused the discourse between him/her? and Dana Huff about their project on the Holocaust.

Here is the core of what they're planning, but the e-mails that he pasted verbatim are quite exciting to watch:

  • My students could do email interviews with some of your students about their family members and family histories.
  • Your students could share photos, letters, and any other information to make this real.
  • We could run an online question-and-answer session about the Holocaust.
  • The Holocaust specialists at your school could suggest a list of sites for us to visit, such as the USHMM and the Spielberg Shoah project, and anything that could make this experience more real for us.
  • I’ve already had a couple of students working on a wiki for this project: http://hlc.wikispaces.com
I know that there are many of you out there planning and working to "flatten" your classroom. I'd like to have a place where people can go to talk about them and Julie and I are planning a post a TechLearning on Friday. I'd like to include a hyperlink to your project.

So, on this post, you're the star, post your project hyperlink in the comments, a little bit about it, and how you feel it is "flattening" your classroom. Those who share before Thursday may be included in my blog post over at Tech Learning, so please share!

Monday, January 29, 2007

How to Win Respect and Influence Students

Sometimes I need to be reminded. One of the most transformational books of my life is Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People.

I came across a website that summarizes the key points of the book and was struck (again) at how the principles are at play in my classroom every day.

Take a look at the three fundamentals in his book:

Fundamental Techniques in Handling People

  1. Don't criticize, condemn or complain.
  2. Give honest and sincere appreciation.
  3. Arouse in the other person an eager want.
I have to reflect on these.

1. Don't Criticize, condemn or complain.

Face it, whiners are not inspirational. In fact, they are repulsive. I can just hear the teacher who bemoans her (or his) sorry state,

"Oh, why don't the kids mind me. Why can't I get anything done? Oh, me, oh my! Waah Wahh Wahh!"

Yes, it is tough being a teacher and sometimes the kids are tough. But I have found that "you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar!"

Stay positive. Be positive. And when you don't feel like it, take a moment.
Attitudes catch like the flu -- especially yours! If you want to have a bad day -- go into your classroom with a bad attitude. Whine a little when they walk in the door. And then complain a little -- I promise you, it won't be a good day!

This is your classroom and take charge. (And remember a little trick, you can have a good attitude but still be firm with students. I have learned that when I get onto students I must not smile at all -- teachers who master "that face" and raise an eyebrow can quiet a maelstrom.) Having a good attitude does not mean a laissez faire attitude -- it just means be positive and take care of business!

2. Give Honest and Sincere Appreciation

This is the key. I believe that every human being is made by God for a purpose that they can do better than any other person! I honestly do. My job as a good teacher is to find what they can do well and hold them accountable to do it well.

I always precede criticism with honest praise for what they've done right or something I've noticed. Then, I point out what the student needs to work on. If it is a change in behavior for the worse, I try to figure out why -- I ask if they are OK.

If I have a student who has been doing well and suddenly bombs a test -- I always call them and talk to them privately. I always start off like this,

"This is your test grade, but I'm going to tell you something -- this is not you! This grade is terrible and it is not who you are and I refuse to believe it. You are an A student -- I know you can make an A and I expect you to make an A. So, what can we do to get you back up to the level of performance of your usual self?"

Then, usually, the student will open up to me and tell me if something is going on. If they are frustrated with a particular aspect of the learning process, they will tell me. I will get feedback on what is difficult for them. But I always get positive feedback and I have always gotten improvement.

I believe that one of the reasons that students perform so well for me is that I expect them to perform well. I brag on them when they deserve it. I find the thing they do well and I tell others. I let them catch me saying great things behind their back and in front of them.

But notice that this appreciation must be honest and sincere. Old fish smells and so do lies. Kids can smell a lie from a mile off. Whatever I see that is true and right -- those are the things that I focus on. I believe that you can find something to praise about any person and the best teachers know that students often perform in the way that they feel about themselves in that subject.

I honestly believe that I teach geniuses -- and they act that way. When they don't, I correct them and tell them that I expect more. I believe in them. I see them for what I know they can be and I know that as a human, sometimes they don't act up to their full potential. I am vigilant.

No, I'm not a perfect teacher and I'm still learning from some of the best (my coworkers) but if you can't master honest, sincere appreciation, you shouldn't be teaching. Period.

3. Arouse in the other person an eager want

I just completed my most successful semester teaching accounting. Why? Well, I think it is because I took a slightly different approach. I looked at this class and said to myself,

"What will make these kids WANT to know accounting?"

I came back with one answer: land. Almost all of them are going to inherit land because most of them come from farm families and it is tough to "keep the farm." So, every chance I got I talked about the problems and challenges for fiscally managing land. I related it to what they'd need to know if they farmed. Most of them dream of farming or at least of well managing the land that their parents have worked so hard to acquire and manage.

So, although it took some convincing -- they eventually wanted to learn accounting. They saw the value in learning accounting.

You can't push someone up a ladder. You can't MAKE someone learn. Ultimately, they have to WANT to learn. And if they can EAGERLY want to learn, then you've really got something there! You've got a student! (And if you let them actively research on the Internet and they've got that passion, hold on, they'll teach you something!)

In Conclusion
All three of these are interrelated. There is a reason that I reread How to Win Friends and Influence People every year. It is because I am human and I lapse into bad habits.

I've had a few tough days lately and I heard on Tuesday morning as I biked the stationary bike the importance of doing something to make another person's day better every day! So, Tuesday. I did something for an older lady who is having a difficult time -- and I love her and she needed to know it. It made her day -- it made my day more!

Last night, I took a group of girls from the church to deliver Valentines Day presents to the retirement home and to sing a little song -- the older ladies cried as they heard the music and got a present. It made their day -- it made my day more!

Today, I had a student having a tough day. He didn't think he could do it. I gave him an honest sincere compliment and talked to him about it -- this big old strapping boy teared up. He needed someone to tell him he was smart and that he could do it. It made his day and he walked out of my room head held high and standing very tall. It made his day -- it made my day more!

So, if you're having those beginning of the year doldrums, get out and do something for someone! Adjust your own attitude. Be more!

Reading blogs prevents burnout!

Teaching is a high burnout profession but that is what I find so great about the blogosphere. I am no longer an island and am surrounded by other great teachers who love their kids and want to help them grow up to be great adults.

Perhaps we all used to get so discouraged because of all the bad press that the media seems to dish out to teachers! I am becoming profoundly convinced that the media is no longer objective and has one purpose: sell paper or readership. Media is suffering because of their inability to grow with societal change -- so negative news sells papers.

One piece of advice for you who love to talk to the media -- get out a digital recorder and record every conversation you have with the media. I have literally been misquoted or taken out of context the last two out of three reporters that I've talked to! And guess what? I can not get the flat classroom project in the paper down here because they do not understand what it was!

I find more accurate information that helps me do my job on the blogs of other teachers than in any other source. As much as I love the Wall Street Journal, if forced to choose - I'd have to stick with blogs.

My next "big" exciting post!
For the last nine days I've been working on a "big" blog post about how I think the best blogs are written. It will be posted early tomorrow on Tech Learning and here in a slightly different version. I'm really excited about it!

What's Next?
I plan to next respond on how bloggers should deal with the media, but again, I am doing my research.

I am spending much more time on fewer blog posts but when they "go to press," (or should I say, I press publish) I have a real sense of pride. I'm still working towards finding a publisher for my book. It will happen eventually, or I'll just self publish this summer!

Remember your calling, teachers!
You truly leave a legacy when you teach!

Teaching is the greatest, most thankless, hardest, most wonderful, most rewarding profession on this planet.

When you're a teacher, hold your head high because you can see past the trappings of immediate gratification in order to pour your life into that of others. You will have rewards for years to come!

Keep the faith! Remember that teaching is a noble calling!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The book with insight into the best teachers!

I wrote this back in October and saved it as a draft. This book has influenced me so profoundly that I want to share it with you!

What the Best College Teachers Do has given me insight some things I knew and other things I needed to hear again.

A trend in problem solving revolves around finding the BOB's and WOW's and determining what things they have in common. The BOB's are the "Best of the Best" and contrary to what you might thing, the WOW's stand for the "Worst of the Worst."

This book provides an excellent analysis of the BOB's of college education. It comes up with measurable ways to determine the best professors from both a perspective of the best student reviews but also measurable learning and retention that occurred and was seen long after the course's conclusion. (Correlated with such measures as high MCAT and LSAT scores and not just student reviews.)

The authors also show their results in light of current educational theory. It was released in 2004, but it is new to me! A lot of it ties back to what I'm seeing in my own classroom and with the trend towards using Web 2 in the classroom to create exciting learning environments!

I like this book because it reinforces what good teachers know about using projects and about fair assessments. Interestingly, the best professors have self assessment systems to see how effectively their students learn. Great book!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Flat Classroom Interview with two judges, Darren Kuropatwa and Terry Freedman

Those of you who get my podcast feed, you'll get this via your podcast manager (I use iTunes.)

However, this discussion with Terry Freedman and Darren Kuropatwa, two of our judges for the Flat Classroom project was a great discussion! I'll be posting Julie's interview with Jeff Utecht and Jo McCleay as well.

powered by ODEO

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A few things I find interesting

Just thought I'd share a few things that came through my Technorati watchlist:

We can never talk about Web 3.0 , I guess, because Wikipedia has permanently banned the topic. (Hat tip to the Buzz Machine) This is kind of funny that some visionaries are so far out ahead of a society that barely acknowledges Web 2. (See John Markoff's November 2006 article in the New York Times about Web 3.0) To me, this quote from the article really explains what the visionaries are discussing:

In contrast, the Holy Grail for developers of the semantic Web is to build a system that can give a reasonable and complete response to a simple question like: “I’m looking for a warm place to vacation and I have a budget of $3,000. Oh, and I have an 11-year-old child.”

Under today’s system, such a query can lead to hours of sifting — through lists of flights, hotel, car rentals — and the options are often at odds with one another. Under Web 3.0, the same search would ideally call up a complete vacation package that was planned as meticulously as if it had been assembled by a human travel agent.

How such systems will be built, and how soon they will begin providing meaningful answers, is now a matter of vigorous debate both among academic researchers and commercial technologists. Some are focused on creating a vast new structure to supplant the existing Web; others are developing pragmatic tools that extract meaning from the existing Web.

Additionally, the recommendations to teachers from the state of Pennsylvania education association about blogging give a little negative bent, don't you think? (hat tip to Chris Lehman principal of the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia)

Blogging 101 Prepared by the PSEA Legal Division January 2007

As a school employee, you must exercise extreme caution when you engage in blogging or other forms of internet communication. Keep in mind that your First Amendment rights can be limited by virtue of your position as a school employee.

If you blog or maintain a web page, you should adhere to the following tips:
I. Minimize the risk associated with internet communication by limiting access to your blog or web page using a "friends only" or similar restrictive setting.

2. If visitors can post to your blog or web page, monitor postings constantly and remove any that are inappropriate.

3. Do not blog or post about your job duties, colleagues, supervisors or students. This will reduce the danger that you might disclose confidential information, share information about a private workplace complaint, or otherwise carelessly or unintentionally engage in speech which could affect your future employment.

4. If you choose to blog or post as a citizen about a non-job related matter of public concern (i.e., the elections, terrorism or environmental issues) take care that what you say will not impede your employer's effectiveness or efficiency or otherwise disrupt the workplace.

5. If you are blogging or posting about innocuous information (i.e., your favorite football team or family geneology), you still must be careful not to engage in comments that could adversely affect your employer (i.e., damage the employer's reputation) or interfere with your ability to carry out your job duties.

6. Do not blog or post about personal subjects (i.e., dating, romance, or drug or alcohol use). Your blog or web page should not contain any references to sexual subjects, or contain vulgar or profane language or graphics. If your blog or web page was a movie, it should be rated "G."

7. Blogging and posting anonymously does not protect you. Names of bloggers, web page authors and other internet users can be discovered through litigation.

8. Check to see if your employer has any policies regarding blogging or web pages. If so, you should review the policy with your PSEA Uniserv.

In conclusion, you should be aware that if you blog or maintain a web page, you must use prudence and be extremely careful in your comments. You must give the necessary time and attention to the content of your blog or web page to make sure that it satisfies the general principles above.

Please contact your PSEA Uniserv Representative if you have any questions.
I advocate wisdom when posting and agree in practice to a lot of these, however something about working for the government but not being able to talk about acceptable topics not covered specifically in our professional ethics (like confidentiality) bothers me somehow. It says, "You can work for me as long as you agree with me."

I always advocate being professional and there are some things best not said on a blog. I see no mention of the positives that come from blogging or in reading blogs only one big red flag after another.

If teacher organizations want improvement in education, it seems that they would advocate sharing best practices!? I see no such advocacy in this phraseology and in fact between #3 -- "Don't talk about anything at work" and #5 "Don't post anything innocuous" or #6 "Don't post anything personal." What is left?

I believe I have a professional responsibility to share the things that work with other teachers. I believe that bureaucracy is doing its best to stifle every bit of life and joy it can out of many classrooms. (Thank goodness I have a great administration!)

Its time for the obstacles to come down and for people to figure out HOW instead of just telling everyone DON'T do anything! Tell them HOW to do it rather than don't do it!

What do you think about Web 3.0? What do you think about the Pennsylvania teachers association recommendations?

Are we ever going to get to 3 when we can't even get past 1.9?

Monday, January 22, 2007

Live School 2.0 Show Tuesday, Jan 23 at 9 pm EST with Will Richardson, Steve Hargadon, Chris Lehman - WOW!

Exciting discussion of School 2.0 and the tentative edubloggercon ( a place where bloggers get together) prior to NECC this summer.

This Tuesday night at 9 pm EST, go to edtechtalk.com and listen to channel 1 and you can hear the WOW2 ladies (Sharon Peters, Jennifer Wagner, Cheryl Oakes and myself) talk with Steve Hargadon, Will Richardson, and Chris Lehman (if he's recovered from the flu.)

This "star studded" cast will talk to us about the following:
  • What does School 2.0 look like? How will classrooms, teachers, and assessments change?
  • Tentative plans for the edubloggercon in June and how YOU can get involved.
As always, you can go in the edtechtalk chat room and ASK questions of our guests and the WOW2 ladies. (You can hear past shows over at womenofweb2.podomatic.com or at edtechtalk.com.)

I have found that each show is better than the last and that the diverse background of those in our chatroom (public, private, men, women, various countries) makes it the birthing ground for some really phenomenal discussions and activities.

Those who participate are as much a part of the show as those moderating. And we welcome beginners! Last week there was a person named Newbie2 -- I loved it! Because I'm a Newbie too and I know what it feels like every day as I sit back in awe of this new classroom that has been created by free tools! WOW!

The weekly WOW2 show has changed my life and inspired me as the guests teach me so much about the dynamics of our society and education. Every show I learn something new and practical for my classroom but especially like the fact that I come away feeling that I am not alone. (Remember that you can listen later via our podcast!)

We have been blessed with amazing guests. Here is the schedule for the upcoming shows: (All of them are at 9 pm EST on Tuesdays).

January 23 - Will Richardson, Steve Hargadon, Chris Lehman
January 30 - --The TechPodzone guys - Podcasting Experts


February 6 2.15 -- Mike Lawrence * Mark Wagner (From CUE)
February 13 2.16 Prerecord with Terry Freedman about Coming of Age - (We won't be live but Terry can't guest otherwise as our show comes on at 2 a.m. his time!)
February 20 2.17 - Julie Lindsey, Dhaka Bangladesh (My Co teacher with flat classroom project)

Please give us suggestions for guests you'd like to see (just comment here.) We've also planned to pull in some of our superstars for future shows!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

OK, 10th grader, what's your major? and more about this week.

I'm a little nervous, this is my first post on the new blogger. Let me know if there are any glitches!

My tenth graders select a "major"

You may wonder what I'm talking about, but as I planned this 8 weeks with my amazing computer science class, I've been pondering the section of Thomas Friedman's book where he talks about the "strands" at Georgia Tech. This essentially allows students to select a dual area of interest-- computing and aestheics or computing and art. Then, students are qualified to work in a variety of areas and essentially find their passion.

So, I have my projects that I usually conduct in computer science this time of year, only this time we'll take a different angle. I've asked my students to select an area of interest. This is to be an industry that they are already excited about -- hunting, special effects, hospitality -- these are some of the areas that the students have selected as their "majors."

Their first blog post on their major

Now, when I have their weekly blog posts that summarize the week, they discuss this from their major. For example, two weeks a go I asked them to write specifically about the hardware in their major.

Here is an excerpt from a student who is interested in golf course managment:
Golf course management has many different new technologies. One of the technologies is the new GPS systems used on golf courses all over the world. They use GPS systems to see where a golf cart might be on the golf course, the measurements to the green from a certain point on the course. The GPS systems also include integrated dash view or roof view GPS screen, widescreen/flat screen display, Dynamic hole zoom, integrated car control, multiple event advertising, full tournament leader board.

The GPS systems allow golfers to order beverage and food from the cart, which improves pace of play and increases food and beverage sales. Staff can send warning messages to individual or all golfers. Staff responds to emergency requests from golfers and dispatch assistance to their exact location. Golfers send and receive messages using the GPS screen and control panel. Staff send and receive messages - and view exact car locations - from the management computer or from any car on the course.

I didn't know these things! Or how about the student who is interested in optometry:

I have learned through research on optometry that optometrists use many kinds of hardware through the eye examination process. The mostly use computers. Computers are used to store the data. Databases are made to store client information and etc. The computers are used to enter prescription data, payment data, and client data.

Optical hardware is also used. It is used to examine the eyes, take photos of the inside of the eyes, and test the eyes to check to see the prescription number. The examination equipment uses lights and storage devices to look inside and around the eye. A machine is also used to take pictures of the back of the eyeball to check for disease or buckles in the eye. The other machine they use you look into it and look at the Christmas tree in the background and it will measure your eyesight.

Again, she spent time looking into her interests. So, instead of just teaching about hardware, each student is looking at it from the lens of their future interest. I am finding that it makes them more interested and am planning their 8 week assessment as a major project where they will select the hardware and software required for a person to start up in that business (or if it is a large corporation, perhaps just to outfit the office.)

Storage Device Wikis

This week we learned about storage devices and my students have produced some very informative wikis about the types of storage devices:

If you don't know about solid state storage, it is really a MUST READ! They also recorded podcasts to release on the class blog about their topic and are in the process of embedding these in the wiki as well. (You can listen to the one on optical storage.)

How I taught storage devices:
Interestingly, the podcast portion has added an interesting element to teamwork. Here is how I did this week's work on solid state storage:

This is a jigsaw that also uses a reading strategy grid that I created. (For those of you who've had training in cooperative learning and in reading across the content areas.)

1) Students came in and had an outline of the lesson (I always hand out lesson plans so they can follow me.)

2) Each student had an assigned subject (one of the three) and was told to move into that team.

3) Reading Strategy and Planning - Day 1

There was a reading strategy sheet that the students used to read the section of the book. They were to read about their assigned type of storage and glean information about how it works and also its versatility, durability, and several other aspects used to analyze storage devices. This was done as a team.

4) Day 2 - Wiki and Podcast -

Each team was to make a wiki and to record a podcast. They had one day. This forced everyone to divide up tasks and get busy. The best group finished it in one day. The groups where one person wanted to do it all had a harder time. I require each person to post to the wiki. If they record the podcast, they must post it to the wiki after I upload it to the stream. I want to teach them that teamwork is essential. I had one group in particular that has now "gotten it" and produced their work efficiently and effectively.

5) Day 3 - The jigsaw -

The third day, the students were to get with their team number. (I also assigned these on the first day.) There were four teams. Each person was responsible to teach their type of storage to the others and help them complete their information. If they finished early, they were to get back into their teams and could work on the wiki some more. (I've created a group of wiki-perfectionists!)

6) Day 4 - The blog posting and labs

Their blog posts for this week were to discuss the types of storage devices used in their major. Additionally, our book has interactive labs and online quizzes that they take and submit. We spent Friday completing these. It really was a breeze considering how well they understood storage.

7) Monday

I will review this with the students by asking questions and we will move on to peripheral devices on Monday. Could I have talked about these three types of storage in a one day lecture? Perhaps. Would they truly have learned it. Not necessarily!

The Results

One of my students has a parent who works at an elite research center with the most amazing computing systems in this area. He can discuss computing with the experts and understand what they are talking about. He is in tenth grade and he understands the "lingo" of computing and even better, he is unafraid to find out when he doesn't know something!

Time Management
We have been discussing time management/ planning with the 9th graders. This is a very rewarding discussion. I love to pull in movie clips to make the point. Friday I pulled in a clip from one of my favorite miniseries. Band of Brothers based upon the book by Stephen Ambrose.

The D that makes all the difference - Story from Band of Brothers

In this particular scene there is a Lieutenant Dykes who has an ivy league pedigree, aced officer training, and has all of the right connections. He is in charge of EZ company and they are to take over a small village in nazi germany. However, as they have held the woods outside the town, Lieutenant Dykes always dissappears when the bombing gets tough. He's never there mentally.

When they invade, disaster strikes. Dykes cannot make a decision. He is afraid and keeps telling the men to retreat. He stops right in the middle of an open field. People around him are dying. He cannot decide. He mentally cannot do it.

Then, Winters, the battalion commander makes a bold move. Watching from the woods, he pulls in Lieutenant Spears from another company and sends him in to relieve Dykes. He is another great officer. Physically fit, battle hardened, and considered by some as half crazy. Spears goes in, relieves Dykes and immediately takes charge of the situation.

Dykes has spread the company out too far and half is on one side of the city with the other half on the other. They must connect or they will all die. Spears takes off running through the middle of the city, connects with the other half and then, he runs back. No one can believe it! At first the Nazi's don't even fire at him!

EZ company goes on to take the city.

How we discussed it

We then compared and contrasted Dykes and Spears. They were exactly the same except for the decisions that they made. I call it "the Big D that makes all the difference."

I was looking for a way to pull the guys into what they consider boring "planner" girly stuff. My own father is a very successful award winning farmer and he always carried a small book in his pocket -- his list. He worked it and used it.

The discussion was amazing. They got it. And it took a movie.

iTunes and Podcasting
I also taught my classes the basics of itunes and particularly the podcasting area. Interestingly NONE of my students understood how to subscribe to a podcast in ITunes. Don't assume that because they have an iPod that they understand how to subscribe to a podcast or even know what it is.

Coming up

Fifth keyboarding - I'm starting with our fifth graders this week and will be teaching them how to keyboard. I'm excited. This year I've planned to start them blogging with blogs that they can take with them into middle school. We've also planned some work with another class that we'll pick up in early March. I'm going to work with the teacher to pull it into her creative writing activities.

Computer Science
More wikis. More blogs. A test is coming up and we will move into software, then, we'll have a big project that I'll make sure to share with you!

Computer Fundamentals
Monday, after I give them time to write down their own values, we are going to learn airset and explore some other online ways to automate their planning. When we finish, each person is going to create a movie about how they will keep a list, a calendar, and their important addresses. I find that each person needs a system that works for them, but it is must be a system. We have seen a consistent increase in grades after teaching the students this. Then, I will be teaching the amazing Cornell notetaking system that literally is one of the main reasons that I was first in my class at Georgia Tech.

Computer Graphic Design
I'm going to have to share another post about the amazing things going on here. Many of my non-academic types excel in this class where they immerse themselves in effective graphic design and non-verbal communication skills.

I love teaching! It is my life. I love my students! When they learn and get excited, it is a greater adrenaline rush than skydiving (I think), but I can feel it over and over again as I reflect on the light bulb experiences.

Now is the time of year when last year's seniors and their parents call and thank me. My students often take a computer science course their first semester to help their GPA because they are confident. That is the best endorsement I can get!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Spies Like Us

simulpost with TechLearning

Whether or not YouTube is being blocked, it is ON your campus in the form of miniature devices tucked away in the pockets and backpacks of your students. Are educators acknowledging this new world where any conversation may be recorded? Are we protecting ourselves and the children we teach from the implications?

Arguably, the most highly educated society in history was Nazi Germany. They learned what they COULD do with no discussion of whether they SHOULD do it. With today's youth carrying spying devices in their pockets that would make the 20th century James Bond drop his martini, schools have some changing to do.
spy: watch, observe, or inquire secretly
to secretly collect sensitive or classified information;

Let's talk about some examples of new media gone awry.

Teachers caught on tape

A Quebec teacher is on stress leave after a video of him shouting at students was posted on youtube. The article says that

"the incident took place a month ago, when one student provoked the teacher into yelling at her while a classmate secretly taped the confrontation." (November 2006)

How about the students that hit a teacher in the head with a book in May 2005 and posted it on Youtube in December 2006 after they had graduated? (The video has been removed.)

The cell phone film that rocked the world

Finally, we have the incident that all of us should know, the filming of the execution of Sadaam Hussein's execution (warning: that is a link to the video) via a cellphone. It leaves the world wondering not of the justice of the sentence but if the method of execution was not as atrocious as the original offenses of Sadaam.

Happy Slapping is not happy!

I can give you so many examples! My students tell me about the "Happy Slapping" trend to have one teen film and another walk up and slap a stranger. The video is then posted to youtube. A January 2005 article from the TES, Teaching Ideas & Resources magazine in England, quotes a teacher who says:

"The school fight you used to deal with is now a media event, with an audience around the whole school and, potentially through email, the whole of London and the country."

A student at the same school justified the practice and says:

"It tells other schools how hard your school is. It's proof. Then they try and send you something worse, go one better."

The private pain of the famous Star Wars Kid

My students also told me the story about the Star Wars kid, a video that almost every student who watches YouTube seems to have seen (it has been viewed 900 million times.) Here is how they have told the story to me:

This child was "goofing off" at school and filmed himself playing with a light saber (a plain stick). He goes to his next class and some of his "friends" come in and find it on the camera. They edit the film and put in a real "light saber" and sound effects and post it on the Internet via Kazaa file sharing service. Others took the video and replaced the saber with other funny items (one even said a banana.) The family was so distressed as the video became increasingly popular. Their child became a "virtual celebrity" and the subject of a global joke that he eventually changed his name (which was posted on the video) and moved to another state.

I did some research and in July 2003, the parents sued the classmates who posted the video. It has now taken on a new life in YouTube!

Everybody's doing it!

We live in a society that is now replete with spying devices - mini video capture devices where video can sit for years! Don't think it is just the wealthy who have these devices! David Warlick recently blogged about a $19 video recorder he saw!

Add the fascination with reality, the emergence of the individual filmmaker, and the general teen idolization to such famous amateur moviestars as depicted in Jacka** , Borat, and the Blair Witch project, and we have a recipe for a proliferation of problems that we have as yet to acknowledge or comprehend.

Hey, is that a supercomputer in your pocket?

With the coming convergence of cell phones and computing devices, there is even more power for students to slip in their pocket.

The New York Times says:

"And the coming convergence — or possibly collision — between cellphones and desktop computers is also yielding new forms of hybrid devices. Nokia and Sony have recently introduced hand-helds with innovative physical designs and new combinations of communication features.

What they share is designs that make them more portable than laptop computers and screens that are more readable than those on cellphones."

New York Times, A Personal Computer To Carry in a Pocket, January 8, 2007

I have to wonder if we won't laugh at the 1:1 laptop initiatives when pocket sized phones with infrared projected keyboards (which projects your keyboard on any flat surface) replace EVERYTHING much sooner than we think.

The 1 Terabyte drives (that is 1,000 Giga Bytes) that are coming out this year are going to push the amount of data we can store on our PC's even further. Solid state storage is progressing to a point that we will see super, lower powered mini drives (SanDisk announced a 32GB drive at CES) coming to cell phones or "hybrid handheld devices" in the near future.

Is that the Internet in your pocket?

As if this is not enough, there is also a new site that allows unfiltered live broadcasts which can literally occur from cell phones, remote web cams, or PC's. These same web-enabled phones allow a tech-savvy student to look into their pocketbook as they query websites to get a fast answer on their Shakespeare Exam accessing Sparknotes on their cell phone while the teacher looks away for 60 seconds.

But soon, every responsible parent will demand that their child have a cell phone with them at all times!

To deny children the right to carry these devices will soon be out of the question, in my opinion. These little gadgets are also powerful tools for protecting your safety. It's not just about calling home-- look at what MontClair University is doing to PROTECT their students via their cell phones:

"When students at Montclair State University in New Jersey feel concerned for their safety at night, they can send a wireless digital alert from their cellphone, setting a timer in the campus security office. If they do not turn it off remotely at the specified time, officers are alerted to their location." New York Times, A Personal Computer To Carry in a Pocket, January 8, 2007

So, what do we do with spies like us?

1- Update Acceptable Use

Amazing Canadian educator,
Sharon Peters, and I have been discussing this very topic and have created a wiki that you can join as we work to create an acceptable use policy that is revised to include social networking. We invite you to join the space and edit.

I think that there should be consequences for students posting things & teachers filmed at school. Additionally, protection extending into the indefinite future for video of classrooms should be provided.

2- Understand that new school hours are 24/7.

The cellcam at the bus stop can impact your school environment just as profoundly as a fight at an assembly. What students do at home doesn't stay at home. (Ask any principal who has dealt with myspace issues.) As the world views your school, you will have to answer questions.

3- Understand the importance of technology education including ethics

Students are largely self taught with approximately one third of college preparatory students having access to computer science education. When students teach themselves and adults are left out of the equation, teens focus on HOW to do things rather than if they SHOULD. (See the first paragraph about Nazi Germany.) As adults, we must enter this world and bring with it the discussions of ethics.

In our "test and measure" educational society, I believe we have devalued these ethical discussions as nonessential. I believe they are my greatest priority.

4 - Understand that blocking doesn't protect your school from this issue

You can block youtube and you can ban cell phones. However, students can covertly observe most anything at your school at any time. Understand that it is a fact. We were discussing this very issue this past Tuesday at the WOW2 show and Sue Roseman in the chat room said:

"We are to teach as if we are being watched at all times.. lesson learned."

Educate your teachers. They should be wise in their dealings. They should always be ethical and kind, for truly it is the teachers who are wronging students or who are easily excitable who I think are most at risk. (Although any teacher who gets on any student's "bad side" may have something arise!)

As we had an ethical discussion this week in my classes, I asked my students, "Is it OK to film a teacher without their permission." The answer was a unanimous, "No."

Then I asked this question, "If your teacher is wronging you, and the administration doesn't believe you, do you have a right to covertly record then?" It was a unanimous "Yes." Ask your students and see what they say.

It will send chill up your spine as they admit their willingness to engage in clandestine behavior.

5- Understand that information does not travel in straight lines.

You WILL see video shot at your school years later after the students are out of your domain of jurisdiction.

How will schools protect themselves and their teachers?

This is a vital issue and one of my most opinionated topics right now. I believe that wise administrators and teachers are going to get in front of this issue.

This is part of the reason I determined to go ahead and record all of my classes with my digital recorder and post it on iTunes. I am up front with my teaching and know that if I control the media, I know that it is not edited. This article doesn't even discuss the implications of students editing the videos of their teachers.

In Conclusion

Values and ethics are vital. You cannot control whether students CAN do these things. They can.

You CAN control what you teach students! Discuss and teach ethics as a weekly practice. You should have a forum (usually technology class) where you can talk about topics as they emerge or you will constantly be playing catch up. Y

ou should protect yourself and your teachers with policies that consider any media filmed at school (And remember that many accommodations REQUIRE you to allow special needs students the ability to record anyway.)

Schools who ignore technology and ignore instilling values in their students could be reaping the negative consequences for those walking their halls right now for the next 100 years.

What is your school doing to address these issues? Please share!

Thank you to my incredible student, Casey C, who helps me by proofing so many of my articles for Tech Learning! She also recently shared top wiki honors with her partner Cannelle from Dhaka Bangladesh for their Virtual Communications Flat Classroom Wiki.

Note to my readers: If you subscribe to my feedburner feed, you'll see that I have spent all week researching this article. It is my goal this year to step up the quality of my writing better and to spend time researching. I know that all of the "pro bloggers" tell you to post a lot, and I hope that although the frequency of my blog posts is going to go down that the quality will bring you back! I believe we are at a pivotal point in education and I take the role that my blog has now very seriously. Thank you for inspiring me to be better.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Myspace to release the Zephyr: Software allowing parents to monitor their child's myspace

The Wall Street Journal reported six hours a go that Myspace plans to offer parent software called Zephyr to monitor access to the information of their child as well as if the child changes their birthday or anything else:

The software will not monitor the MySpace user's movements or email, but it will "tag" the profile and report back to the parent if the user name, age or hometown have been changed. The software will collect this information about anyone who logs onto MySpace from the home computer, so it could collect information about a child's friends as well as the child.

One big issue at the meeting was whether MySpace's software would violate the privacy of users. Other social-networking sites have more restrictive privacy rules than MySpace -- not allowing anyone to see a user's age or location, for example.

Another concern was that the software could be used by people other than parents to monitor the MySpace usage on their computers.

There are a whole wealth of issues swirling around this one including the mass exodus that MAY occur with some teens. The whole thing behind all of this is verification -- there is no way currently to truly verify a child's identity, age, or who their parents truly are. If we're relying on the honesty of people we will find that there are many honest people out there. However, kids make mistakes and the truly dishonest that we are supposed to be protecting these kids from are liars by nature.

I echo the last sentence of the article:

Larry Magid, author of MySpace Unraveled and a Web site BlogSafety.com, says MySpace's software seems like an important step. But, he cautions "there is no tool that will solve the problem of parents not taking an interest in what their kids are doing on the Internet."
The advice I give parents: Talk to your kids about it, have them show your their site and subscribe over RSS. (See my 11 steps to online parental supervision of your child.)

This is definitely one that my students will be blogging about! When you give them things where they have strong opinions, they can do some great writing!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

When it is OK to lecture

I keep a journal and as I looked back at an entry dated 1/11/2005, I came across this great quote that I had noted.

It seems that on this day, I was frustrated with how many times I was having to talk to a particular class about a particular flaw. (Some classes just seem to whine - although I must say in the two years since, I don't have much of that problem now.)

I talked to a veteran teacher of 30 years and this is what she said to me:

"Lecture them over and over and over because they need to hear it. We don't just teach our subject here, we teach these students who to live their lives. They are kids and no matter how old they are, they need to hear it again and again and it WILL have an impact."
This reminds me of the post (aptly titled Sometimes a Teacher's Gotta Preach: Advice for Teenagers on Spring Break and Prom) from a while back where I recorded my pre-prom / pre-Spring Break "lecture."

It is not often that I do "lecture" and when I do, I don't do it for too long. But I am finding that my students from three and four years a go are coming back to retell me the "stories" that I told them during one of these infrequent but heartfelt "lectures" of mine.

You teach them how to live

My point is this. Yes, we teach important subjects, but the best teachers also teach students HOW to live. (Just watch the movies of acclaimed teachers.)

If we do not teach students about character and wise decision making, we truly stand upon the precipice of disaster in our increasingly interconnected world. Ethics are directly tied to character.

I talk openly with my students about most everything from the dangers of pornography (studies show that spouses with this addiction are more unhappy in their marraiges) to that of speeding, drinking, drug addictions, sex, online safety, online predators, myspace safety, and most anything as appropriate. I love my students.

Prom Season is upon us

As we look at prom season coming, we need to know that after it has come and gone that we can live with ourselves for having done all we could to promote wise decisions. If you have an audience of teenagers, you have a great responsibility.

But where is the technology, Vicki?

OK, I haven't forgotten technology - I have a wealth of posts coming on everything from Second Life (see online places in SL for educators from SimTeach) to my new wiki projects but I have been immersed in PowerSchool this week and hope to finish up tomorrow so I can again share some neat things I'm doing. I also had my Computer Science students choose "major fields of interest" that we call "majors" for some upcoming projects. They are excited. Flat Classroom winners will be announced Sunday! More later.

For now, I'm reflecting because I am tired. Have a great day and if you feel your inner prompt pushing you to "lecture" on the things of life to your students sometimes it is OK.

(Note: This is not an excuse for those teachers who tend to have "conversation time" on a daily basis. That is not my style AT ALL nor, what I'm advocating. I am an adult leader not a "buddy." This is about taking time during the right time to talk -- I do this 2-3 times per year per class, usually when something "big" has happened that has them upset or around breaks and ALWAYS around Prom season.)

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Participate in this survey of edubloggers and pass along

(Taken from Dangerously Irrelevant) hat tip to Chris Craft at nextgen

All education bloggers are hereby invited and encouraged to…

  1. complete the short and completely unscientific, but hopefully interesting, education blogosphere survey;
  2. forward the URL of said survey to all other known education bloggers to ensure decent representation of the education blogosphere; and
  3. publicize said survey URL on their own blogs to foster greater participation in this most noble endeavor.

Survey results received by Sunday, January 14, shall be posted in the town square on Wednesday, January 17.

I was going to omit the end, but some of you may enjoy it:

"Those solicited who choose not to participate shalt be labeled both publicly and widely as dastardly scoundrels, notty-pated hedgepigs, or beslubbering, doghearted, maggot-ridden canker-blossoms!"

I don't know what a notty-pated hedgepig or beslubbering or a canker-blossom are but they really gross me out, so I guess I'd better participate.

(Actually, I think it is great any time someone takes a look, even if it is unscientific, at what is going on in this amazing edublogging community.)

Sometimes you add to your life by subtraction

The thought I ponder this year will be very appreciated by teachers.

"Sometimes you can add to your life by subtraction."

I think in America that we often equate MORE with BETTER.

But MORE does not always equal BETTER.


Too much to do to be happy

We have too many activities, too much to do, too many places to be, too much to read, too many things on our list, too many goals, too many tasks, and even too much to choose from.

We're not made for this!

Doing an activity is like throwing a rock in the pond of our life and watching the ripples move in circular beauty.

But, we often cannot enjoy the ripples of the first rock because we're throwing thousands of tiny pebbles in as fast as we can. All we see is tumultuous waves and not any peace. Instead of "plop" we have CRASH! Instead of seeing the mark made by our big rock, we look at the thousands of ripples and wonder if we make a difference at all!

The stressed out generation

I often think that the children I teach are WAY to stressed out! They run around trying to make the grade, make the starting line up, make the part, make it to the next level of their video game, and make their mark and often don't have time just to enjoy being a kid! Not surprisingly, life doesn't MAKE sense to these kids who just see an endless barrage of activity. Even vacation is work with parents who try to cram in every sight!

It is time for a little subtraction!

I am looking at the plethora of activities and commitments for I and my children and asking myself:

"Does this add value to my life? Do I feel called to do it?"

If not, it is a waste of the life I have left. There are a lot of good things out there to do, but by trying to be good, we often miss out on being our own best person.


The secret to good marksmanship with a gun is to focus on the target. Perhaps many of us are not reaching the goals in our life because we fail to focus on them!

When my kids pick and activity, I ask them -- "Do you like it? Is it fun?" If not, get rid of it. Do what you like.

Give the kids a choice!

If you look at many of the great people in history, most of them determined at a young age what they were passionate about. Sir Isaac Newton journaled his scientific observations in middle school. No one had to sign him up for the science club!

Too many parents are living vicariously through their kids. Consequently, the kids end up doing things they hate! My sister HAD to play the piano and quit well past her "hatred point." She doesn't know how to play the piano any more. I played for 11 years and asked to quit. My parents let me make the decision and I still play the piano.

Its about the relationships

I will never get a grade on being a good mother. My grade will come when my eyes dim and my children still grace my door. I want them to want to be with me.

Sure, I want my children to succeed. But if I deny them the joy of being a kid because I want them to achieve everything TODAY then I have truly done harm.

Yes, I read to my children. I teach them study skills. I am a pretty "type A" Mom. But I'm also a Mom that wants what is best for my kids and sometimes what is best is to allow them the choice to subtract something from their life.

When my daughter quit dancing

When my little girl quit dancing and all the other girls didn't, I had to hear it from the other Moms! But you know what, my daughter didn't want to dance. She didn't want to! She was 6 and didn't want to.

I let her quit and we savored the extra family time. She's never regretted it and I've never regretted it. And those same Mom's who told me that "my child didn't know what she wanted" and "all the other girls are doing it" now tell me they wish they had quit at a younger age and enjoyed the peace instead of haggling over something their child didn't want to do.

Some things I will subtract this year:
  • Activities I'm not called to do
  • Activities my kids don't want to do
  • Relationships with people who are negative and unkind
  • My words
I want to determine the goals that my family and I have and focus on those. I want to focus on my family. I want to do the strangest math I've ever heard of and subtract the unimportant so that my life will have more.

What do you think?

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

WOW2 Tonight at 9pm EST

In just a few moments we will kick off a very exciting discussion with Lee Ann Baber, Dave Cormier, Paul Allison as our guests. Lee Ann and Paul are half of the Teachers Teaching Teachers foursome and Dave is one of the founders of the Worldbridges program.

If you miss it, remember that you can take a listen by subscribing to our podcast at http://womenofweb2.podomatic.com. Remember that us four ladies welcome everyone to listen and join in our lively discussions.

So, if you're online - go over to www.edtechtalk.com and you can sign in the chat and talk with us live and ask questions. (It's free.) You can listen to the stream (with a 30 second delay) by clicking on the Channel 1 icon on the same page.

If we are able to have a skypecast we will also post that in the edtechtalk chat. I hope you can join us.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Starting Well!

I often do not post a lot during the first few weeks of a semester largely because I believe that it is vital to start well at a breakneck speed. I've been setting up my feeds on iTunes for all of my classes (I've set up one at coolcatteacher.podomatic.com) and just getting things together!

Meanwhile my Introduction to Web to Podcast has been downloaded 169 times since I posted it on January 6th. I must say that I am stunned!

There are lots of discussions that I am contemplating right now, but when it comes down to it, I am a teacher first. As much as I'd love to immerse myself in the blogosphere, teaching is what makes my heart go pitter patter and gets me excited!

My most exciting moment came last week in Computer Fundamentals. I am doing a series on Time Management and Planning that I do in 9th grade just after the grades have gone out for the first semester. I've found that it makes a huge difference in getting kids back on track and have seen the results in students setting goals at this age. My 10th grade study hall students kept raising their hands and saying things like "Mrs. Vicki, are you going to tell them the story about ___ or about ___." They remember the whole thing - exactly one year later.

That means something to me. It just does!

I hope you start this semester well! Remember the effort that you put in at the beginning pays off exponentially during the semester and allows you to relax and enjoy the end while other teachers are stressing because they haven't accomplished their objectives.

I hope to be back soon to share all of the exciting things I've been jotting down to tell you! Meanwhile, we'll be announcing the winners of the flat classroom project this weekend!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Introduction to Web 2 for beginners

This past Tuesday, January 2nd, while many of you were recovering, I was working. I was asked to give an introduction to Web 2.0 to the teachers at Westwood Schools where I work. I spent 18 minutes talking about powergrade, so you may want to forward to minute 18:30 and listen to the introduction. This is how I share with beginners (like I was about a year a go). Many have shared with me how they liked it and several have started blogging this week with their classes.

This is episode 10 of the Cool Cat Teacher podcast. (You can subscribe over iTunes or go my my feed.) My Odeo Podcast

powered by ODEO

Friday, January 05, 2007

iTeach iRecord TheyLearn

My new year's resolution in my class is to record and podcast all of my classes so that students may download all class discussions from ITunes. The students are very excited as am I. It may take a little bit of time but I think the spring sports season will be much better because of it.

Of course, the prospect makes me nervous because during 200 minutes or so of conversation a day, someone could find SOMETHING that I did wrong, however, I do not mind being held accountable. I believe that I am doing my best and if something I do is called into question that is fine by me. This is done by the inspirational Mabry Middle School (Look on the right to see and listen to their class podcasts) and when I saw their principal, Dr. Tim Tyson, talking about how they do this, (listen to interview) I really was impressed that it is something I should do.

I am recording with the iRiver Model T30MX 512 MB which costs $40. It will record around 115 hours of time and I hang it around my neck. It has a built in microphone and does a good job of recording (and it follows me around the classroom.) I am in the process of uploading this into iTunes as we speak. (Just look for Westwood Schools under podcasts in the itunes store.)

I'm going to post under Westwood Schools so you can search for that in the itunes store. (I'm the process of doing it now.)

More about my Tech Tools on the TechLearning Blog post I wrote today called New toy Heaven in 2007.

Monday, January 01, 2007

The Wikipedia soap opera

I'm not going to belabor this Wikipedia thing. I'll tell you more later how this works out. Here is what has happened as I've worked with the edublog page (and my own name, which technically is Victoria Adams Davis but I found Victoria Davis via my Google RSS feed for my name.)

It seems that people should not create pages for themselves. If they are noteworthy, their community should create it and add it. That is where we as edubloggers have not done a very good job. We seem to look stuff up in Wikipedia -- do we edit and add?

The fastest way to get yourself deleted is to create it yourself. So, if someone is noteworthy, it is your job to add them.
  • After someone named IcecreamAntisocial took a knife to notable edubloggers striking out Josie Frasier, Miguel Guhlin, Will Richardson, and Alfred Thompson. This person did not leave a note on the talk page as should be practice when names are deleted as such.
So, I added back Will Richardson (he has enough citations for me to prove his notability) and I created a page for him. (Please add to it if you have FACTS.)

I got a note from a very helpful editor who showed me how to question the notability of an article, which I did. (You just type {{notability}} at the top of a page in the edit screen.) I received a very terse response that the person with the name Victoria Davis won the state teen pageant and thus deserves inclusion in Wikipedia. They have a project that they've created to add information on beauty pageants. She was also upset on my blog post and concerned that I didn't contact her.

Well, I did leave information on her talk pages and the project page, (no responses posted as of yet.)

So, here is what I've concluded:

1) I will reserve my thoughts on Wikipedia, this is still in progress.
I guess it took an "in your face" something like the use of my own name to make me really look at the mechanics of what is going on here. This is a good thing. I teach wikis, I should know more about Wikipedia.

2) I've posted some questions to the very helpful editor in Banglore who offered his help. (Talk about a flat world.) We'll see what he says.

3) Whether or not educators like Wikipedia, perhaps its flaws are because so many educators do not like wikipedia and have thus ignored it.

I ask you to join and become an editor who cares about adding fact to the subjects you care about. -- Start by watching the edublog page! (But do not add yourself, only add others that you believe you have enough proof that they are notable.)

4) You could put in your two cents on this issue if you are an editor and it hits you. Otherwise, I'll let you know.

5) Remember that the other editors are just like you and we all have to begin somewhere. Don't let others intimidate you, you have a right to be there too. Behave ethically and responsibly! I'm doing my best to do so, but I am a "beginner at Wikipedia."

Like I said, I am reserving judgment. I do not have the time now to "mess with this" as we say. I'm going to have to leave the pageants alone if my issues do not get this resolved and will just let my name be in wikipedia for a teenager who won one pageant -- that must be more notable than I?!

Honestly, at this point, I think neither of us should be included.

It is supposed to be contributions over an extended period of time - hardly the one year that either of us has contributed to our fields. That should be in Wikinews! (In fact a search for edublog in wikinews turns up NOTHING!) Which is more important, a pageant or an edublog award? Wikipedia should just be consistent and have the mechanism in place for it to be consistent, or it is worthless. Otherwise, information goes to the persistent and dogged. (But then again, it often has.)

Boy, we will have fun debating this one in computer science. Perhaps I'll record it!

OK, enough of that. I have to grade!

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