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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Daily Spotlight on Education 02/28/2009

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

Friday, February 27, 2009

Semantic Aware Apps Rising

Came across this cool service to analyze your blogging style called Typealyzer from the ETLMS Blog from Oakland Schools. (nice blogging going on over there, by the way.)

So, here is what it said I am.

ISTP - The Mechanics

The independent and problem-solving type. They are especially attuned to the demands of the moment are masters of responding to challenges that arise spontaneously. They generally prefer to think things out for themselves and often avoid inter-personal conflicts.

The Mechanics enjoy working together with other independent and highly skilled people and often like seek fun and action both in their work and personal life. They enjoy adventure and risk such as in driving race cars or working as policemen and firefighters.
But the chart I found particularly fascinating was the one that showed the brain patterns used when writing here.

It was heavy on the Thinking/ logic/ mathematics and also on the sensing - order/ habits/ details. I'm between a thinking, practical, and feeler with a little bit of intuition.

Despite what many think, this says I'm NOT an idealist! ;-) Think that is sort of funny because being an idealist is something I might actually be. ;-)

So, although I do agree with much of what this says about me, it ran really really quickly and I don't know the algorithms. I do, however, find fascinating how these sorts of tools can be used. What we are seeing is an attempt to analyze people to see what kind of person they ARE, yes, the move into the semantic web.

Interestingly, my good friend Karyn Romeis from the UK is a Mechanic, but her brain chart looks like this:

so, there is definitely an algorithm driving it. Cheryl Oakes, another dear friend is also a "Mechanic" but her chart looks like this:

David Warlick
He is also a "mechanic" like me (see above) but his brain pattern is slightly differentwith a little more into the idealist, and feeling.

Other bloggers: Cathy Nelson Jo McLeay

So in some ways, this analysis is adding some intelligence to it - what are people LIKE. So, I thought I'd typealyze some of the edubloggers that I know and see what it says about them.

Stephen Downes


INTP - The Thinkers

The logical and analytical type. They are especially attuned to difficult creative and intellectual challenges and always look for something more complex to dig into. They are great at finding subtle connections between things and imagine far-reaching implications.

They enjoy working with complex things using a lot of concepts and imaginative models of reality. Since they are not very good at seeing and understanding the needs of other people, they might come across as arrogant, impatient and insensitive to people that need some time to understand what they are talking about.

His brain patterns?

You know, in some ways this analysis makes sense because I know for me, often I read Stephen's blog and it requires quite a bit of cogitation to pour over and understand what he says -- that is why I'm an avid reader. He makes me think and he teaches me. I think the service he does to the edublogosphere is a very good one. But remember, no two bloggers agree all the time - even husbands and wives argue. ;-)

Other Thinkers: Doug Johnson

Sue Waters
The analysis indicates that the author of http://theedublogger.edublogs.org/ is of the type:

ISTJ - The Duty Fulfillers

The responsible and hardworking type. They are especially attuned to the details of life and are careful about getting the facts right. Conservative by nature they are often reluctant to take any risks whatsoever.

The Duty Fulfillers are happy to be let alone and to be able to work int heir own pace. They know what they have to do and how to do it.

Other Duty Fulfillers: Kathy Schrock Krysten Hokanson Silvia Tolisano Claudia Ceraso Lisa Durff Anne Davis Ewan McIntosh

Will Richardson

Typealyzer says the following about him:

INTJ - The Scientists

The long-range thinking and individualistic type. They are especially good at looking at almost anything and figuring out a way of improving it - often with a highly creative and imaginative touch. They are intellectually curious and daring, but might be physically hesitant to try new things.

The Scientists enjoy theoretical work that allows them to use their strong minds and bold creativity. Since they tend to be so abstract and theoretical in their communication they often have a problem communicating their visions to other people and need to learn patience and use concrete examples. Since they are extremely good at concentrating they often have no trouble working alone.

So, Will is very good at looking at the long range. These seem to also reflect him as well. Again, not so sure about the shortcomings but then again, I don't know him as well as others.

Interestingly, I know another Scientist VERY VERY Well!

Julie Lindsay


Julie and I have co-collaborated and planned 13 projects, linked around 2,000 students from more than 20 countries and included at least 500 educators in these projects, so I know her pretty well. She is a scientist, just like Will and also one of my best friends in the whole wide world and she's a genius. Working with her is one of the greatest joys of my life!

And yes, I think because we're different we compliment each other very well. I'm under the hood tinkering, she's developing rubrics to knock your socks off.

Her brain when she blogs?

Other Scientists: Beth Kanter Graham Wegner Kim Cofino Doug Belshaw Louis Maine

Bob Sprankle

ESFP - The Performers

The entertaining and friendly type. They are especially attuned to pleasure and beauty and like to fill their surroundings with soft fabrics, bright colors and sweet smells. They live in the present moment and don´t like to plan ahead - they are always in risk of exhausting themselves.

The enjoy work that makes them able to help other people in a concrete and visible way. They tend to avoid conflicts and rarely initiate confrontation - qualities that can make it hard for them in management positions.

Other Performers: Peggy Sheehy

Beth Ritter-Guth


INFJ - The Protectors

The thoughtfully creative and empathetic type. They are especially attuned to thinking up new and better ways of helping people get their needs met. They can be fiercely independent and can work tirelessly to achieve their goals. They often need a friendly reminder not to take themselves too seriously and enjoy the process as well as the achievement.

They like working in an environment where they can set goals and help people grow. Since they often are so good listeners and have strong integrity they often end up very appreciated leaders.

I could see that - this is precisely why so many of us trust Beth to lead us into virtual worlds.

Linda Criddle

This is a friend of mine who has great things to day about protecting kids. A protector, right? No, Linda is a:

ESTP - The Doers

The active and playful type. They are especially attuned to people and things around them and often full of energy, talking, joking and engaging in physical out-door activities.

The Doers are happiest with action-filled work which craves their full attention and focus. They might be very impulsive and more keen on starting something new than following it through. They might have a problem with sitting still or remaining inactive for any period of time.

Here is her brain when she blogs:

Alice Barr


Just the name of her blog, "The View From My Window" gives insight into what Alice is:

ISFP - The Artists

The gentle and compassionate type. They are especially attuned their inner values and what other people need. They are not friends of many words and tend to take the worries of the world on their shoulders. They tend to follow the path of least resistance and have to look out not to be taken advantage of.

They often prefer working quietly, behind the scene as a part of a team. They tend to value their friends and family above what they do for a living.

And so, it could go on.

What is the point?

Deriving Meaning from the Web

Well, some of you sincerely DON'T LIKE the categorization and pigeonholing such trend analysis gives you. (And I'm sure you'll tell me.) You don't like the fact that this analyzes words and supposedly creates some sort of picture of who you are.

Transparency - the Nagging question is HOW! How are these meanings derived?

The fact is that the semantic web will somehow do JUST WHAT WE'RE seeing here -- use your words or use other things to categorize and share who and what we are.

In the Horizon Report 2009, they state that there are two probable ways for the semantic web to evolve:

"There are currently two theoretical approaches to developing the semantic capacity of the web. One, the bottom-up approach, is problematic in that it assumes metadata will be added to each piece of content to include information about its context; tagging at the concept level, if you will. The top-down approach appears to have a far greater likelihood of success, as it focuses on developing natural language search capability that can make those same kinds of determinations without any special metadata."

So, the most likely is that natural language based apps, like the typealyzer seems to be, will be what will happen. Additionally, at some point, they'll be able to analyze photos as well.

So, travel with me in space and time if you will.

At some point, there will be apps that will spider everything about a person and be able to tell us:
  • Is this student a good "fit" for your school?
  • How likely is it, depending upon the language that the student uses that this student uses drugs or participates in at risk behaviors?
  • Would this student be a good fit for our company?
  • Is this teacher a good fit for our school?
  • Does this person who teaches literature and English have good grammer skills him/herself?
This is something that the students and I are studying in depth as a part of NetGenEd and as you can well guess, there are GREAT applications and some we may not like so much.

I have to agree with Don Tapscott in his introduction to Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation is Changing Your World HC(p 7) where he says:

"Net Geners are making a serious mistake, and most of them don't realize it. They're giving away their personal information on social networks and elsewhere and in doing so are undermining their future privacy. They tell me they don't care; it is all about sharing. But here I must speak with the voice of experience. Some day that party picture is going to bite them when they seek a senior corporate job or public office. I think that they should wake up, now, and become aware to the extent that they are sharing parts of themselves that one day they may wish they had kept private."

In many ways things are "private" because of the sheer volume of "stuff" out there. Nothing is intelligent enough except the most sick stalker or vigilant researcher to ferrett a person's true behavior and goings on. But soon, with semantic aware apps, it will become all too easy.

WE will be able to derive patterns and come up with conclusions without even reviewing or seeing someone's page.

So, if you DON'T like the analysis above. If you don't like the fact that it is not transparent how they did it. Then, take it into your mind to truly understand what semantic aware apps mean to both students and you.

Everything you do: your word choice, the meaning, the pictures you use paints a picture of YOU.

See the writing on the web and decide what you want your writing to be.

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Daily Spotlight on Education 02/27/2009

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

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Batting at Technology

Watching this video, I see teachers who are looking at blogs or wikis or any new technology and just not really sure what is going on.

Love kitties anyway.  (Isn't it obvious?)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

What is the story of your total classroom makeover?

Getting ready for the amazing North Carolina (NCTIES) Conference in Raleigh, North Carolina next Thursday and CUE in Palm Springs, California on Friday!

You know that so much of what is happening is not embodied in any one teacher but in all of us!  It is important to share the stories because this is what motivates teachers of all walks of life to realize that, YES, they CAN change and improve.  They can have the attention of their students again.  The students CAN love to come to school and clamor to get in their class.  It can and is being done.

So, I'm on the hunt for stories.

If you've never commented on a blog, now's your chance, consider this a virtual tap on the shoulder.

So, my question to you is,

What is your story?  How have you made over your classroom using technology and what are the impacts you've seen?

Please post your story or a link to your video, your words, or anything you have to share that should be told to teachers.  Some of these WILL be used at either NCTIES or CUE next week.

Thank you for the great things you've done for me and my life.  Truly, blogging has blessed me in so many ways but it is because of being  a PART Of something bigger than myself.  No one teacher can embody or represent ALL other teachers, but as each of us get the opportunity to share our story, we can take along, like a portfolio, the great stories of other teachers too!

So, please share!  And if you share, if you are able to share your school, grade level, subject area(s),  and location in the world, that would be great also!  This blog post and your answers WILL become part of the presentations next week.  Thank you!

(Oh, and NCTIES teachers, consider taking the video challenge too!  You may see yourself on the big screen at the Thursday keynote!)

Daily Spotlight on Education 02/25/2009

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

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Soldier On

I cannot state this teacher's name.  At least not now. 

All I'll say is that she is a teacher on the NetGen project.  You wouldn't believe the struggles that some teachers have to go through to be a part of global collaborative projects.

Every time, there are some teachers who apply who have to drop out because of lack of administrative support.  This year was:
  • They won't unblock the ning. (Notice we're not asking to unblock all nings, just one url plus http://static.ning.com in order to let the content through.)
  • Administrators don't see the purpose of global collaborative work.  (yes, someone said that!)
My heart is broken for those excited teachers dashed upon the rocks of discouragement by those who cannot see past the four walls that close them in.  Closed minds can be the darkest places of all.

Meet the NetGen Soldier
But then, there is this bright light of hope.  We have a teacher who has had to get EVERYTHING unblocked - the wiki, the Ning.  I'll call her the NetGen Soldier.  I don't publicly post her name or school because we must protect the district and keep her from having problems.  Here is a quote from an email today about why she couldn't access the Google Doc:

"it is a case of the department of education
blocking access to these sites at school and the department web filter team says that it is a directive from "above". I had to apply to get the wikispaces site unblocked but the join page of the wikispaces page is blocked for the students, which means that I have to create an account for them individually. But I'll endeavour to soldier on... I'm still really excited about working with classes around the world!"

This woman inspires me as she soldiers on.  How aptly put.

Do you honestly think "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen?"

So many teachers sing the old song "Nobody knows the trouble I've seen" and use it as a lament for doing nothing.

Let me tell you something, "Everybody knows the trouble you've seen."

We ALL SEE IT! There are so many obstacles to this sort of work it could strike us all mute! 

I'm in control of my own filter and sometimes it blocks things that I have to check out before I unblock them or come up with an alternative.  We all have these troubles.

And yet, the soldiers are the ones who march on. The people who get things done to overcome geography, time zones, regulations, restrictions, misconceptions, misunderstandings, stereotypes, whining, complaining, and our own stinky attitudes that can sometime develop from all of this mess!

I hold onto a vision that will be mine for all of my life.

Children from around the world hanging out and laughing together in the Souk (a shopping bazaar in Qatar,) in the middle of Doha, Qatar.  Everyone looked at them and we looked at them laughing and enjoying the nigh.  It was amazing.

This is what can happen if we connect ourselves NOW in "nonthreatening" ways using the Internet.   

We are building the bridges today that society will walk across tomorrow.

Yes, I blame some of these admins -- people who want to keep the world closed, minds closed, and our future from EVER being any different than it is today.

Well, friends, guess what I've seen. I've seen a boy from Iraq helping a US kid get on the Internet.  And a child from Oman helping a girl from Australia come up with a way for kids to collaborate and learn not to discriminate against others.  THIS CAN BE DONE.

But it takes soldiers.  

You know, I was thinking this morning in the shower as I see everyone on the news berating and whining about "this economy" and "these times."  You know, we idolize people like Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and yet if you ask anyone "Do you wish to live during the civil war?"  No one would wish that.

And yet, these people lived during the tough times and made a difference. Do we remember the people who led us during prosperous times?  Maybe.  But we revere those who lead us with a torch in the darkest periods of human history.

People are often made by the times in which they live.  See tough times as the opportunity to improve humanity at a time when society hungers for leaders to show them practical ways to improve society.

And it is those who rise above and get the job done -- who strive to be more, who see the big picture that make a lasting difference on society.

In 2000, my hometown was struck by not one but THREE tornadoes.  I knew some women and men who were so upset that they stayed home for days crying because their neighbor's house was destroyed.  I am sorry for them, I really am.

Because about 2000 of us in this tiny community (5,000 in town and 18,000 in the county) left our homes and worked and mobilized the 10,000 volunteers who came from around the country to help us recover.  Disaster agencies couldn't believe that a disaster that should have taken 2 1/2 years to recover from took us a year.  We have the joy of knowing that although the dark days came, that we worked together and DID SOMETHING ABOUT IT.  We made sandwiches, cleared land, and patched roofs.  And do you know my job: writing the database that managed this... and managed the website that told people where to go.  It was my small part but one unique to my own abilities.  Everyone did the part, nothing special about me.

People who sit at home and cry.  The whiners.  The mopers. 

"Poor me. Poor me."

Yes,  Poor you.  You are missing the greatest riches of life which is the privalege of being part of something bigger than yourself.  There is nothing easy about this life, it is HARD WORK.  Anything worth doing is worth sweating over.  Anything tough requires elbow grease, brain power, and WORK!

Pushing schools into a new day, a new era of educational excellence requires soldiers.

Soldiers like my dear, precious NetGen Soldier.  I cherish her emails.  She is quiet but she is determined.  She is my inspiration.

Maybe one day after this is done, I can share her name and picture and brag on her for all to see. But for now, she is anonymous, and a hero for all of us.  She is endeavoring to soldier on. 

How about you?  Will you endeavor to soldier on?  Can you make it through the struggles?  Can you see the big picture so you can deal with the hassle of the small picture?  Slog ahead, push ahead.

We do not know that we are writing a chapter of greatness until the last line.  But we do know that usually those chapters begin with dark moments, tough times, and big challenges and the greatness is intertwined in the stories of self sacrifice, vision, and persistence that steadily lead humankind on to a better day.

Soldier On

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Daily Spotlight on Education 02/24/2009

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

Monday, February 23, 2009

Guidelines for Effective Wiki-Editing

These are the basic wiki instructions to students and teachers on NetGen. Thought this would be helpful for some of you.

Here are some notes to students and teachers for the most common questions about wikis.

If you find a mistake:
If I have typos, please feel free to fix them.

Where they are:
All of them are linked to this page - http://netgened.wikispaces.com/Teams
The main topics are on the left.

How editing works:
We write the instructions in italics and ask them to delete it.

If you delete it, how can everyone see the instructions?
This FORCES the students to learn how ot use history -- just go to the history tab and look at the 1st copy of the page - the instructions are THERE. This forces them to learn about instructions and the power of the wiki.

What goes on the wiki and what in the discussion tab?

The wiki page should always be in FINAL form - so discussions go on the discussion tab - talking about the page. I use Wikipedia to show how this works. They should look for their expert advisors here as well.

How do they keep up with their wiki edits and discussions?

We use igoogle and they subscribe to the discussions and wiki edits for their main page and sub wiki - to find it, go to the notify me tab of the page. This helps them keep up with things.

When can they start?


What are wiki wars?

When students edit simultaneously they will delete one another's work. There is a warning that let's them know when someone else is editing, but sometimes it will happen erroneously if another person clicked "edit" and then left the page by clicking cancel. The wiki editor saves the iunedited page in the "cache" and tells others that someone is editing when they aren't.

Can wiki wars be prevented?

The #1 reason for wiki wars is that students do not click "discard" when opening a page. In the example listed above, there is a copy in the cache of your computer when you clicked edit and then clicked cancel - it still saved a copy. So, if you did this 3 days a go, and you don't click Discard you lose 3 days of work!! So, click Discard and there is no problem.

How do I get back my work?
No problem! If someone deletes your work, go in the history and copy your work out (just turn off change highlighting when you do) and paste it back into the current document. Try not just to revert back -- as that perpetuates the wiki war. Feel free to leave a kindly worded message to the person who has not discarded the previous draft. Do not let things escalate -- sometimes others just dont' know and they are learning!!!
We have a few teachers who need to sign up for the teams. Get into the google doc ASAP as we need to publish this.

A simulpost from NetGenEd Ning.

Is this the dumbest generation?

This is how Don Tapscott begins his conversation with the students and they are responding on the forum as we speak. Wow! What a great intro!  If you respond on your blog, please use the technorati tag   (just copy that at the end) so we can aggregate responses from the blogosphere.

Here is my response.

"My generation was characterized by the television and rock music. I remember hearing someone on the Today show who had research to prove that loud rock music would interrupt our heart rhythms and make us unhealthy. Also, I remember that people said that we watched so much tv, so closely that we would have eye damage.

To me, there are adults who are inter-generational relational and there are those who are generational gappers. The former are those who are willing to change and also, very often who love and enjoy and appreciate children and youth. The latter are often those who don't want to change, who have somehow forgotten the way that adults stereotyped them when they were growing up.

When we went to Qatar, we taught the students that there was no superior culture - just different cultures. The same is true with generations - no superior generation, just different generations. Some adults mistake the fact that they are in authority with thinking that they are superior. In fact, if we look at the adult generation now, I think we too have some flaws. And in looking at our own flaws, we have some things we have GOT to teach our students.

To me: ethics, digital citizenship, cultural awareness, global collaborative skills, and discernment are all things that should be part of our student's upbringing. Then, we will inoculate them against becoming corporate executives who lie on their financial statements to get ahead - people who build bridges with other cultures instead of burning them, and people who treat each other with ethics.

I lay much of the blame for cyberbullying and copyright infringement upon the fact that this is a subject totally ignored in most schools and which most parents are either unaware or uneducated about. It is time to move these things front and center and realize that this generation is DIFFERENT and that we must DIFFERENTIATE and learn how to best teach them.

It is exciting that we are having them cast the vision for this and be part of this with the NetGen Ed project which is part of your good challenge.

PS. And the students and I commented on how your audience was very likely adults with this video! Students said they could see how some adults would be nodding their head "yes! Yes! YES!" and then all of a sudden a big "NNNNNOOOOOOOOO!!" as you turn the tables on the common misconceptions of youth. Great job and wonderful video. Thank you for sharing and conversing with students."

I particularly love Kayla's response:

"Wow Mr. Tapscott. In the beginning I was shocked because I was thinking, goodness, he's talking about us! But you are right, we are the smartest generation and the future pretty much lies in our hands. That's the power we have. The "digital immersion" has actually improved communication with people around the world and has become part of our everyday life.

Addicted? Yes we are. We're anxious to learn as many new things as we can about the internet and new technologies. We are a powerful force of change, and change is for the better.

The future isn't hopeless because of us, the future is actually hope-FUL."
And Kathryn has a good one as well:

"Mr. Tapscott is right when he says that everybody criticizes our generation. Fortunately, he and I both disagree with these criticisms.

First, he said that people think we are the dumbest generation. We are actually the smartest generation because we have had to deal with school plus all of the extra technological advances that have come out during our lifetime. We manage to keep up with the changing world and make good grades. We also read when we get on the computer, and we can look up useful information on the internet. Another reason that students are smarter is we have harder tests than our parents did.

He also mentioned that we have no social skills. I definitely disagree with this stereotype. What do you think people do on MySpace? Socialize, duh. Our parents think that everyone is addicted to the internet but no one talks to anybody else. This is not true because there are tons of spaces on the internet that are just for collaboration and socializing. I believe that these spaces and websites are actually helping kids become more social because we can talk to people from anywhere around the world, and past generations did not have that opportunity.

Another common criticism is that we are violent and bully everybody. I truly believe that every generation bullied, it just happens to be better documented now. There is actually an advantage to fights being put on the internet: It offers proof of who did it. In the past, kids could just lie and say that they didn't do it, but now we can't lie because everybody has a copy of the fight.

Lastly, he said that people think we are self-centered and don't get involved in anything. This is not a true statement because Obama got involved on the internet and began blogging, and he won the election. Many young people voted in this past election because Obama knew how to reach the Net Generation.

Past generations need to realize that we are not the horrible people they think we are."

Turbo Tagger

Why should I capitalize my i's? (And what to do about it)

OK, this is an issue that many students ask, "Why do i need to capitalize?" (I intentionally did that lowercase.)

Well, there is one main reason:

Not everyone speaks English.

Using a lowercase "i" and other things like "cu l8r" and "r u OK?" are part of a slang called "im-speak" or instant messaging speak because it developed to speed instant messaging. If you choose to use this in your personal communications, that is your choice.

But here, we are professional students and one day, you will be a professional of some kind. In that case, if you do not capitalize you will be judged as someone who doesn't care about your language.

But most importantly, IM speak is very rude to those who have English as a second language and so that just makes it poor Digital Citizenship. As a Digital Citizen, you want to be inclusive and helpful to others AND a good communicator. (Some who don't speak good English will also use things like Google Translate which WILL NOT properly translate things that aren't spelled correctly or capitalized.)

So, those of you who seem to be allergic to those shift keys to capitalize and the punctuation -- you'd better get over it. Correct language is important and good netiquette. If you want to have spellchecker built in, just use the Mozilla Firefox browser and it will spell check automatically. I use it ALL the time! Just right click on the words that are underlined in red and pick the correct spelling.

For the teachers, this is how I handle this:

1) I message them privately and tell them if it is not fixed that it will be points off.
2) If they don't fix, I leave a comment on the page to remind them and as a message to other students about capitalization and correct spelling.
3) This is VERY important because IM speak is rude to those who have English as a second language -- capitalization is VERY important and IM speak is VERY rude when those who aren't native English speakers are involved. Talk about it and use it as a teachable moment.

There is also some project guidelines that we use for all Flat Classroom projects at http://projecthelp.wikispaces.com/Citing+Personal+Information

Cross posted with my NetGenEd Project blog
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Daily Spotlight on Education 02/23/2009

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

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Cute Funny Bunny (and a nice read)

This week I sat down and read a book by my friend, teacher, Phillip Done, 32 Third Graders and One Class Bunny: Life Lessons from Teaching.

He is an elementary teacher and has won numerous awards for his teaching and success. To me, the thing I liked most about the book (in addition to the funny stories) is the fact that it brings into clear focus just how human and messy the teaching process is. Maybe it resonates with me because I'm a piler too (see his chapter on the types of teachers.) My room is usually the messiest one in the building but is also the one that is overflowing with kids who want to be there. Most often, they are working on my class although my class is long since done!

One of my favorite parts of the book is called, "Interview Questions" (p 136-138) -- I'm quoting a bit of it here:

"The other day I was thinking about the time when I interviewed for my first teaching job. It is hard to believe it has been twenty years. I can still remember my first interview questions. What is your philosophy of education? What is your classroom management system? What is your discipline plan?

God if I knew...

Here's what I said then and what I'd say now...

Question 1: If I walked into your classroom what would I see?
Answer at first interview: YOu would see children working collaboratively in peace and harmony, praising each other, and sharing their supplies happily with one another. You would see children thinking critically, helping their classmates, and encouraging one another.
Answer today: You'd see Brian hiding the soccer ball between his feet, Peter connecting markers together to make a really long one, and me looking for my coffee mug.

Question 5: What would you do with a difficult parent?
Answer at first interview: I would call the parent and listen to her suggestions. I would work closely with her because we are a team, working together for the success of the child.
Answer today: Say, "Get a life."

Question 12: Why should we hire you?
Answer at first interview: Because I love kids.
Answer today: Because I love kids."

To me, teaching is not the sanitary mechanistic textbook-like prose of college textbooks but rather a messy, human-filled, flawed process where sometimes the most bull-headedly determined teacher resorts to expressive, dramatic actions to keep the attention of her (or his) students. It is messy and if it is done well it is the most fun, tear-filled, hard, rewarding, frustrating, incredible, exhausting, amazing, work that one could ever do.

I love kids too. In addition to my own, I have adopted several hundred more. I love them, hope for them, dream for them, sit up at night thinking of what they are good at doing so I can tell them.

This is a great book because it is real. It is funny, heartwarming and very true.

There is a lot of comfort in knowing how imperfect other teachers are, I guess it lets me not be so hard on myself because those "perfect" teachers out there make really make me feel guilty sometimes!!! (You know those with the neat rooms, no backlog of papers to be graded, perpetually updated bulletin boards, and tidy desks in perfect rows?) Phil is an elementary teacher but so much of this is something that I can relate to.

Phil sent me an autographed copy back in the late fall (I collect books autographed by their author) and I appreciate him adding to my collection this endearing book. While not a textbook on "how to teach" in many ways, the "how to teach" is all over it.

For example, when teaching suddenly became easy for me was when I realized that my facial expressions and proximity to my students were my best friends. If you have "the look" down, you don't ever have to fuss -- just give the look and your problem is handled. ;-) He has a whole chapter laughing about "the look."

Thanks Phil for a great read! I wish I could review every book I get, but review those that I enjoy the most. To me, this is a good gift book for teachers, whether retiring or new, and makes for a humorous read. It would be interesting to have all of the teachers at your school compile their funny stories in this way, because we all have them.

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Daily Spotlight on Education 02/21/2009

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

Friday, February 20, 2009

Daily Spotlight on Education 02/20/2009

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

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Daily Spotlight on Education 02/19/2009

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

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Daily Spotlight on Education 02/18/2009

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

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Ode to Virtuality

DreamWorldImage by WangXiang via Flickr
Ode to Virtuality

I keep getting stuck in the wall
teleporting to a shack in the air and then I fall
stuck in  box, wearing a cube
running into someone and feeling like a rube

Mixing up my controls and walking off cliffs
messing up the sim when I write a bad script
falling up, falling down, heck, I even fell sideways
but my students are happily working these days.

But even though I sometimes am a bit slow
this is the way I must learn to teach, I know.
The power, the strength, we're on the cusp of change
again we move forward though many stay the same.

To OpenSim, virtual worlds, we embark and builds
Notecards, objects, scripting, an emerging of guilds.
Learning so much, and yet, still needing more
Thankful to learn.  Thrilled to explore.

Invention, learning, creativity, choice - this is NetGen
whether you like it or not, they fill the classroom you're in.
Time to evolve, to create anew
to build a newer, a virtual you.

Vicki Davis a/k/a Cool Cat Whitman
Come on in -- the sim is fine!

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Daily Spotlight on Education 02/17/2009

  • Flat Classroom teacher, Chris Chater from the American School in Paris highly recommends this cooking blogger. Chris is a really cool cook and has great taste so check it out.

    tags: education, cooking

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

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Daily Spotlight on Education 02/12/2009

  • Emily wrote a particularly touching blog post reflecting on the Flat Classroom conference, she says:

    I feel like a better person now that I’m home. I have tolerance for people that are different to me. I can understand that people are different, eat different foods, dress differently and talk differently."

    We WILL have a conference next year -- start planning now - we hope to announce the location at some point in the next few months.

    tags: education, learning, flatclassroom

  • ABC has a newly designed website expanding on their citizen journalism program for college students. According to ABC:
    this program "will enable any college student the opportunity to pitch and potentially develop and produce a story under the guidance of ABC News. "

    What a great opportunity!! I wish textbook companies and others allowed people to have citizen journalist contributions.

    tags: education, learning

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

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Beware of the Ants of Annoyance

So many times it is the little things that really get our ire.

Today, for me, it was a steady marching stream of tiny little insect-like annoyances.  And wham, before I knew it, these annoyances swarmed to steal my joy and my enjoyment of what I was doing!

Ants can kill in swarms.

And so can little, petty annoyances if allowed to fester, get you angry, and bite at your enjoyment.

For many teachers it is the relentless paperwork.

Today,a fellow teacher  here who left the public school system, shared her "swarm."  She left teaching there largely because of the disdainful way she was treated by the state because her school wasn't meeting AYP.  She said it was humiliating and that people who had NEVER been in the classroom talked to her like she was not a professional!  She is a great teacher and had been there two years!!

Another teacher said it was the mainstreaming that really got her -- students who really belonged separate or couldn't read and were in Middle School.  Swarm!

Now, to say all of these are petty annoyances is to diminish the severity of what is happening.   But, as administrators and fellow teachers we must watch for the marching ants -- for when they swarm, it can mean the end of careers, employment, and even, much worse, the love of teaching and hope.

See what these things are.  For truly, when ants swarm, they are no longer a minor annoyance... they are fatal.

What are the ants in your life?  In your school?  Can you get rid of them for yourself or others?

Brush these annoyances off our lapel and realize that although some people are petty, professionals are not. 

We must crush the ants that come our way by action, a positive attitude, and NOT letting them bother us!   The worst thing we can do is to become a petty annoyance for another.

And pettiness passed along to another just becomes more pettiness.

Boy, I wish I'd listen to myself sometimes because gosh, I am petty WAY too often.  But every time it happens, I feel a little less of a person.  Pettiness only diminishes the person who is petty.

So, today, take a look at the annoyances.  Are they minor ants that should be squished in your fingers or are they beginning to swarm and a sign of an issue that should be dealt with?  Take actions today.  Do not let the ants of annoyance march on.

Daily Spotlight on Education 02/11/2009

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

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Second Life and Open Sim for Newbies (like Me!) - Day 1

If you and I follow each other on Twitter, you'll know that my ninth graders (a/k/a the Digiteen Dream Team) have been building a virtual world to teach digital citizenship on ReactionGrid, and OpenSim.  Boy, I'm a total beginner (feel about like this kitty on a laptop) but learning a lot, so I'm planning to share the things I've learned with you.

Just remember I'm a beginner - if you're a supergeek then head over to Beth Ritter-Guth, Peggy Sheehy, or Kevin Jarrett and the other many educators who leave me in the dust, but if you're trying to figure this out, maybe this will help!  I'm putting this in my own words, so I hope the experts will correct me if I mess up.

Basic Terminology

Virtual World - A virtual world, some call a metaverse, is a place where you can operate in 3d environment.  Everything is in 3d space which means it has x, y, and z coordinates for those who actually start building in these worlds.  There are many out there, but perhaps the "grandaddy" of virtual worlds is Second Life created by Linden Labs.

Grid - A series of servers that work together to make a "world" or joint spaces.  Sometimes if you have too many scripts or things taxing on the server too close on the grid it can cause your sim (simulation) to crash - so often I tell my students to "spread out on the grid" which we sometimes call the sim.  

Second Life - A virtual world created by Linden Labs. There are two primary "grids:" adult and teen.  Once a person turns eighteen in real life they "graduate" to the adult grid, although there is no age verification in Linden Labs.  Although it is free to join Second Life, sometimes it is difficult to find places to build and create things because everything has an owner.  In order to edit and change things you should have permission and in fact, permissions are set on every object in Second Life.  For this reason, there are specially made "clothes" objects, and things of all kind for "sale" using Linden Dollars in Second life.

Avatar - This is you! In RL (real life) you have a body, in a virtual world you have an avatar.  You can change body shapes, genders, and even species if you take the time or buy the different types of bodies.  If you're going to present in a virtual world take time or find a friend (like Beth Ritter-Guth did for me) to improve your avatar.

Prim - This is also called a primitive.  These are the objects that are created.

Script - This is a program that is attached to the objects or prims that make them do things like rotate, or hand out items like notecards or landmarks.

Teleport - Just like in Star Trek - you will be immediately taken from one place to another.  If you bookmark places on the grid (called making a landmark) you can teleport to places you've marked.  If you find a place you like ALWAYS make a landmark and rename it in your inventory.  Even now I get stuck underwater or a student closed the door on the room I was working in - I had someone teleport me out and dealt with the student by walking up to him in my classroom and discussing that we don't lock the teacher's avatar in a room! ;-)  Your friends can teleport you to where they are and it is very useful.

Inventory - All of the things that belong to you.  Your clothes, your actions (what you can do), your landmarks, notecards, scripts - everything.  Make copies.  Rename things.  Back things up.  Your inventory is your life in a virtual world.

Trigger - You "own" actions.  If you don't have an action, your avatar cannot do it.  So, if you want to smile or laugh or anything, you have to have the action.  Well, some actions have triggers. This means, when you type a trigger word in the chat, that your avatar will act a certain way.  So, if I type lol, my avatar laughs because it triggers the action "laugh."  Again, get friends because they will give you actions.  Also, you may find boxes of clothes, actions (also called gestures), and other things in some places that cater to beginners and you can take those things and add them to your inventory.

Rez - This means to create an object or make it appear.  "Rezzing" means that something is materializing.  Today I was taxing the grid and my pants looked like rainbows - they "rezzed" for quite a while and turned into my favorite pair of faded jeans.  It is OK, be patient.

These are just some terms, there is a Second Life wikia full of terms.  Bookmark it to look things up.  These are the terms that I had to learn just to be able to communicate with those who are "in the know."  And beware, Google define does not work for many second life terms - the wikia is the best place to go for this.

8 Great Guidelines for Joining Second Life

  1. Find a Fast Net - Have a good computer with an excellent Internet Connection

  2. Find a Friend to Take You In - Have a friend who knows a little bit take you "in."  DO NOT go in alone.  Kind if like signing up for twitter an dnot adding any friends.

  3. Bail on Beginner Island - As soon as you are "born" have them teleport you OFF beginner island.

  4. Have a Sense of Humor (but stay dressed!) - Prepare to totally be clueless, get stuck in walls, and be frustrated - have a sense of humor and get over it.  Whatever you do DO NOT triple click on your clothing or take off your clothes - you'll be embarrassed.

  5. Get Out a Bit - Attend an event of some kind where you can meet people (ask friends to recommend events for educators or join SLED - Second Life for Educators) or go somewhere like ISTE Island to see some neat set ups.  (ISTE has set it up so you can join and go straight to their island.)

  6. Find Friends - Ask your friends already on to add you as friends.  Like twitter, SL makes NO SENSE without your friends.  Using connectivism in action, you have got to join some good groups and have some friends so they can help you and teach you, maybe even give you some space or an office.  Remember, though that many of them are going to be working in SL and it is NOT play for them -- maybe they will let you watch while they work.  And hard work it is.

  7. Inspect Everything - Once you understand how to move around a little, Right click on objects and also touch things.  Accept notecards and landmarks and read everything.  Begin to think of it as a virtual world.

  8. SL isn't the only place you can go - Realize that there are many other options OTHER than Second Life using the OpenSim protocols.  I go into Second Life to look at things, review scripts, look at objects, and show my students cool things they can do (I show it on the smartboard because they can't go on the adult grid.)  

More Terminology

LSL - Linden Scripting Language - This is the programming language for scripting in Second Life AND OpenSim which uses the Open Source version of the Second Life browser and tools.

OpenSim - This is a 3D application server which can be downloaded for free from OpenSim.  Some schools put this on their server and run it at school and then work with companies like ReactionGrid to plan "field trips" into other OpenSim worlds.  We have a parcel on Reactiongrid adjacent to NASA and Microsoft and sometimes it is possible to find sponsors for your sim, however, it is very affordable - you can get started for around $25 a month on an OpenSim on reactiongrid which is very affordable as technologies go.  You can use an OpenSim viewer (we use HippoOpen Sim which is based upon the Second Life browser and can actually be used to log into Second Life.)  This is very similar to Second life.

Can I move things between Second Life and Open Sim?

Well, at this point, the way I've moved just scripts is to copy the script into notepad and then make a new Script in OpenSim and then paste it into the new script in Open Sim -- I DO NOT run both Second Life and OpenSim at the same time.  LSL is used for both.  Supposedly there is something you can buy in Second Life that lets you move your inventory but at this point I haven't found it.

So, right now I've got a 'scripting shack" for teaching my students and will be cutting and pasting HOW to do things.

So, if you want to step into Second Life and OpenSim with me, here is your assignment for Day 1 (which may take you several days)

Day 1

  1. Join Second Life and follow the 8 great guidelines listed above
  2. Keep a list in a simple text editor like Notepad of the things you see that you'd like to do-- you'll use these in a later assignment here.
  3.  Make at least 10 "friends" - you can add me, I'm CoolCat Whitman but I'm not on SL a lot- am on reactiongrid and OpenSim because that is where I work with my students.
  4. Go to ISTE Island, sign up for their group, fill out their survey, and try out things there.   
  5. Landmark ISTE Island.  Go somewhere else and then teleport back.
  6. Blog, share what you've learned and inquire.  Seek out experts and reflect -- experts need to see the reflections and thoughts of beginners.  With everything you see, ask yourself - could this be used to teach? If so, how?
  7. Feel free to share your questions and frustrations here if you wish - or link back to me and I'll find you.
Oh, and if you want to be in my family, I'm a Whitman as my last name.  My students are all Radikal! ;-)

If you're looking for people in Second Life you can use the hashtag #secondlife in twitter and then search for that, but perhaps of more use would be the tag #sled taking off on the SLEd group above.

Now, experts out there - help me and the other Noobs here -- give your tips, blog posts and point us where we need to go.  I'm sure that there are so many things I don't know.  Sorry for being a beginner but as I've always said, there is power in being  a newbie!

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