I've moved the blog!

I've moved my blog to www.coolcatteacher.com as well as all of the posts from this blog. Learn more...

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Tour into Digiteen Island

Using some video from Leon Cynch of the BBC on our Digiteen Island, this is a compliation of some of the sights and sounds of Digiteen Island built on Reaction Grid, using OpenSim, the open Source version of Second Life.

Monday, March 30, 2009

And so it grows: Telling the Story of Global Collaboration Growth

It is always great to hear the reflections and thoughts of others.  So many things that happen grow far past how they start.  Here are a few that have come across my desk lately.

Love listening to an AP Statistics Teacher from Mary Institute County Day School ( an amazing School in St. Louis) talk about the Flat Classroom Project - she does a great job of describing the structure.  The audio is a bit soft but you can hear it if you turn it all the way up!

Minhaaj ur Rehman, Pakistan presents his views as a judge

Then, just got an email from Joan Huntley, at Stonehill International School in India, an attendee of the Flat Classroom Conference and participant in NetGenEd.

"I'm not sure if I mentioned this or not, but we have two nice collaborations going between our school and George Haines in New York as a result of my meeting George and talking to him at the Qatar conference. One project is with Kate Dickson, our music teacher, where the kids will collaborate on writing an song and then we will vote on it at the end. The other is a project with Mark Dufff, our Humanities teacher, where students from each school are annotating historical and geographical features of their home country (on Google Maps) and at the end the students will study the other country and give a presentation. We set up Nings for both. It's a first time working with the music teachers who were tentative at first about the technology etc.

PS Here are the Nings
Although Julie and I are having to trademark the Flat Classroom name, so that we can raise money to support the conference and projects with some much needed support (we need some back end help on this as it is growing past what we can do as a hobby,) flattening classrooms is something that is for all of us.

We are all a part of this.  Each of us has another way that we are connecting with others, through twitter.

Truly, this is just one of many grassroots collaborations emerging from teachers around the world.  We would never say that we are somehow the only ones doing this, we are not.  However, when opportunities present, we will always share and talk about the need for such collaboration.  The need to share.  The need to connect our classrooms with others.

It is about who you are letting IN!  Who are you connecting your students to?

Does your curriculum director have a world map on their wall?  Are your students collaborating within your school?  Within your district?  Within your state?  Within your nation?  AND around the world?

Students are the greatest textbook ever written for one another.  We must truly be about the business of building the bridges that society of tomorrow will walk across.

Truly, so much of our obstacle is systemic.  Although when speaking, sometimes I get administrators, IT directors, and even teachers who bristle at the tough statements - as a whole I believe that educators, administrators, and IT directors are good people doing a thankless job that is very very hard.

And our system attempts to keep us stuck in the industrial age.  From industrial age testing to huge pyramidal bureaucracies that require layers of approval to somehow personnel decisions (like which teachers don't deserve access to many things) being put on IT directors and curricular decisions (like which websites are accessible in classes) onto IT.  We have some huge systemic problems that must be addressed to unleash the great, innovative, ideas that I believe are itching to get out in many schools.

Are you considering how and where it is appropriate to flatten your classroom. The amazing thing is that with a visionary teacher, they can customize and fit such projects into your curriculum for you.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Friday, March 27, 2009

Curriculum Idea: Flint River Immersion Project

This week's video cast is about the Flint River Immersion project which is an immersive project that we are kicking off at our school.  Immersive projects are coming into practice in many schools that implement Project Based Learning. The students will actually be out of the classroom for a week in grades 9-12.  They will be studying the Flint River.  More detail can be seen at the Flint River Ning.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Youtube Edu Launches: But K12, don't get excited....yet

Very excited that youtube edu is launched from a small mention on their blog today.  Tech Crunch cites the purpose is:

"a better way to collect and highlight all the great educational content being uploaded to YouTube by colleges and universities” according to a short blurb on the YouTube blog.

While I'm delighted that we need a place to display the college information.  K12 is the place that desperately needs youtube.edu.

For example, my ninth graders have a youtube channel to support their work.  Several months a go, Edutopia had a contest which had students upload their videos to youtube, so Virginia and several of my students did so. (Virginia was one of the winners.)  For about two weeks, a flagged video showed an inappropriate thumbnail on the related videos.

Using youtube in the classroom for ALL OF US, has been something that is important.  (See  favorite inspirational videos and how youtube can be used in the classroom from February 2008.)

So, yes, I'm delighted that youtube edu has launched.  But again, youtube is something that we need for k12 and it can be done, although I'm not sure about doing it this way.  It looks as if youtube has just added content from universities and colleges that have channels on youtube.  Probably a pretty simple thing to do.

I know that teachertube is something that many teachers use, although it tends to be pretty slow.  There are several ways youtube could do this:

  1. A self or community ratings system that would allow filters to only let videos of certain ratings through.
  2. Vetted educators could be a mass group of volunteers and content approvers.  They would see a check that would send videos off of the "real" youtube onto a mirror site with only educationally appropriate videos.  Let educators patrol and police it - it would certainly work as I think there are a lot of us who would commit to this.
What are your ideas.

So, bravo youtube for the FIRST ACT.  May this just be the first act in others to come that will truly provide video for education at all levels.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Daily Spotlight on Education 03/26/2009

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

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Do what you can. Share what you can.

So, who are you going to be?

Teaching is reallly a 24/7 job as is parenting.  So much to do!  It is overwhelming. 

I think as you look at blogging or twittering or sharing anyplace online it is important to keep one thing in mind:

Share what you can, when you can and that is enough.

There is no doubt, often, I'm a binge blogger.  I've cut back on nightime blogging to be here for my children. I have a first grader and reading to him every night is a top priority -- 30 minutes to 1 hour a night with him - without exception.  Lots of other bloggers out there who will write, but none of them will read to my 7 year old - that is MY job.

Sometimes people say, "how do you do so much?"

What they don't know is I often feel like "how do I do so little?"

Behind on my email - a list of 100 things to do, so much going.  Everyone else seems to have time for webinars, courses, and conferences.

And yet, like the reading with my son, when my students walk in my room, I am 100%, totally theirs.  I give all I have, all I am, and everything that I have to them for that 50 minutes or so and again, during my planning.  I am theirs.

Some would say it is the tyranny of the urgent, but rather, I believe it is the importance of the urgent.  Someone must look at these kids and let them know how important and precious they are.

Sure, I'd love to be some amazingly relevant, super inspirational blogger and really, my goal is that someone out there needs encouragement. That is what I want to be.

I share my bookmarks and have Diigo auto post it.  I use twitterfeed to auto post my blog posts to my twitter feed.  I schedule blog posts ahead of time to spread things out.  Whatever it takes to automate, and be helpful.  I really enjoy blogging and writing and wish I had more time to do it.

However, there is one way to discourage yourself and drop out of EVERYTHING -- and that is to focus on others.  If you look at others and what they're doing, it is easy to feel tiny and insufficient. It is easy to feel inadequate and unimportant.

But, if that is the case, when I feel that, I have to ask myself:  "Why am I doing this?" 

Really, it isn't about me or any of us. 

But that somehow, if we share and help one another move ahead and improve and encourage each other to keep going, then we've accomplished something.

My wise granny always said, "Sometimes you've gotta let the rough end drag."

Your best is good enough. 

Keep the main thing the main thing but keep on going. 

Don't let your self-comparison of yourself to others let you get down and quit.   

Your blog post, your tweet, though it may be less frequent than a complete cycle of moon phases is still a contributor to the entire equation.

Keep it up, teacher.  Keep sharing.  Do what you can.  Share what you can.

Know that teaching is the most noble calling on earth! 
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Daily Spotlight on Education 03/24/2009

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

Monday, March 23, 2009

So if Teachers Wont "Read It" What are We doing with Kids!

Over on the Left Lane Ends, where Jerram Froese blogs, I was struck by this statement:

"We’re doing some great curriculum work with McRel over the course of this year and today’s focus is on developing a good unit overview and how assessment should be woven into the published curriculum. I’ve posted it before, spewed it to friends and commented in more meetings that I care to remember about how we ought to treat teachers, educators as professionals. After reading a ‘model overview’ (about probability) that was VERY well worded, we were invited to comment. My thoughts? [in my head: 'wow, this is a NICE overview. It actually has the 'why' built into it and makes real world connections. this would really get my brain going if I was teaching probability.']
I guess others had different thoughts in their head. The first vocal comment was, ‘This is too long. Teachers won’t read it.’"

He goes on to say that teachers are so focused on test prep that they don't have time to do anything else.

My own children have testing upon them.  It is not something we think about all year, but right now I'm making extra sure that they sleep well, eat well in the mornings and just that they do their best.  I do look at the tests and yet, it is NOT the only thing.

You see, I have two kids with LD and when we "found" these issues, my boys had a profound drop in their test scores that year.  It scared me.  I will not share what those were, but I will say that one of my boys jumped 80 PERCENTILE POINTS in one year after proper diagnosis and accommodation.  80 POINTS.

My concern is that test scores are a measurement but not a diagnosis of the worth of a child nor their future.

Also, I'm sitting here thinking about how teachers complain how children won't read important things, and here, I'm hearing that a teacher won't read something that is important to the teacher.

And this is a personal pet peeve of mine:

I will not ask of my students that which I will not do myself.

  • If we don't want to sit in a 10 hour session with someone lecturing to us about project based learning -- neither should we turn around and lecture to our kids hour after hour.

  • If we want engaging training and MEANING in what we do for professional development, we should do the same in our classrooms.

  • If we want kids to read things and be inquisitive - we should do the same.  When is the last time you took a new idea to the curriculum director.

  • We want our students to have a positive attitude about things they don't want to do - will teachers have a positive attitude about doing things they don't like?

Likewise -- the same with administration:

Model the behavior you wish to see in teachers.  If you want them working from early morning until late -- do the same yourself.

If you want them to be there on time -- be there on time yourself.

Students want geniuineness -- and so do teachers.

We all must be professionals.  Oh, boy, I wish I was as perfect as Mrs. Adkins or Mrs. Caldwell or Mrs. Dean at my school -- they seem to do no wrong.  But one thing that makes them all so great is that in their 30 + years of teaching a piece that they never stop learning, they always push to do more, and they are, above all things professionals.  I love them dearly and want to be more like them.

Something about this post resonates with me.  Guess I'm just talking to myself again.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Daily Spotlight on Education 03/21/2009

  • Keep up with Classroom 2.0 LIve conversations. I actually have this as part of my Google Calendar so I can keep up with it.

    This week:

    "This Saturday, Mar. 21st, Peggy George, Kim Caise, and Lorna Costantini will be hosting another Classroom 2.0 LIVE web meeting. Classroom 2.0 "LIVE" meetings are an opportunity to gather with other members of the community in real-time events, complete with audio, chat, desktop sharing, and sometimes even video. (Special thanks to our sponsor, Elluminate, for providing the service that allows us to do this!) A Google Calendar of shows is available at http://live.classroom20.com/calendar.html.

    The topic this Saturday is: "Podcasting". Our special guest will be Kevin Honeycutt, founder of the "Podstock" Ning. Our Newbie Question of the Week will be: "What is a podcast and how can I use it to support my teaching?" We hope you'll join us to share your ideas and questions. Links for more information can be found at http://live.classroom20.com. We strive to make our shows beginner-friendly and if you've never participated in a live web meeting don't be afraid to come and take a peek at the show's format. We love newbies to join us and 'dip their toes in’ the conversations until you feel comfortable enough to "jump in the conversations with both feet"! We want to encourage "experienced Web 2.0 users" to join us by contributing and extending the conversation by sharing real-life examples and tips/suggestions.

    Date: Sat., Mar. 21, 2009
    Time: 9:00am PST/10:00am MST/11:00am CST/12:00pm EST
    Other time zones link and a link to the actual meeting room can be found at http://live.classroom20.com/.
    Location: Elluminate https://sas.elluminate.com/m.jnlp?sid=2008350&password=M.97A21EB084879D9442B4EDF2437E3D"

    tags: education, learning, webinars, technology

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

Friday, March 20, 2009

Daily Spotlight on Education 03/20/2009

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

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Tip #1 Rock the Box (Your Inbox that Is)

The Cool Cat Teacher shares her video tips for cool little tricks that you may not know are there.  This week, it is the GTD (Getting things done) Firefox plug in for Gmail.  It is downloadable at http://www.gtdgmail.com/.

Flat Classroom Workshop at Boston College, Cell phone workshop at NECC and more

"I don't get out much."  When I say this, many don't believe me, but really -- the 5-6 conferences I go to a year are a mere pittance compared to the many conferences of most.  That being said, there are a few things packed into a 2 week schedule this summer. 

Would like to share what is going on with you so that perhaps if there are any of you out there that would like to join in, you can do so.

   The 2 day workshop with edtechteacher, Tom Daccord, will be the major workshop for me this summer at Boston University on June 25-26, 2009.   

Julie and I will be talking about doing one but it will either be later in the year or in 2011, so for now, this is where you can get the information.  Although she's coming in town for NECC, she won't be there in time for the two day workshop. 

On Saturday morning, June 27th it will be great to catch up with some of you for just a moment at Edubloggercon at NECC.

The afternoon is a workshop whose time has come for me called Cell Phones for Classrooms, Calendars, and Life Management from 12:30 - 3:30 pm.  Although we use cell phones a lot in my own classroom, until this year I don't really know if there has been interest in a workshop on Cell phones.  My career began in the telephone business and I was a General Manager for Cellular One for several years back in the 1990's (before I started having children and stayed home with them when they were babies) and I LOVE CELL PHONES!  So, this will be fun.

There are several sessions at NECC, but I'll just let you browse the Current Calendar for those -- the session with Adam Frey that the fire marshall always shuts people out of is on Monday - am hoping to find someone to stream that and any sessions for me.  So, let me know and we'll make sure you get in.

Just click (look for more) on the calendar if you're looking at this calendar in April and May -- oh, and the Guy Kawasaki thing on my calendar is just a session I'm attending with Discovery - I am not "on" the show with Guy Kawasaki (don't I wish) -- just attending.  But it is free and it will rock.

So, sore feet in tow, Julie and her daughter will come down to Camilla to recover for a bit of time and then I'm taking July off!!  Already looking at the conferences for 2009-2010 school year and excited about some great possibilities.

One day, I dream that every school's great teachers will take 4-5 days a year to go off and present and share.  Sadly, the other day I talked to an amazing teacher who is asked to present all the time - she told me that the one flaw of her admin is that he says "you are mine and I'm not sharing."  Well, especially for public school teachers in the US -- who pays their salary?  They, of all people should be sharing with one another - but I truly feel that it is the right thing to do to share share share.  We can never have enough discussions about what is happening IN the classroom.  Real, authentic teachers who are doing it now add a lot of value to conferences and are the people who always leave me dumbfounded at how much I need to be doing.

And, as this grassroots movement of educators continues to move forward, there are many more of you sharing and doing and presenting - keep it up!  Maybe we can say hello at NECC. ;-)

Daily Spotlight on Education 03/19/2009

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

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Talking about Flat Classroom

Talking about Flat Classroom projects, what we are learning, and how such projects are moving into all disciplines of education.  Enjoyed talking to Chris Walsh at CUE two weeks a go.   Also, at the end, we discuss how curriculum directors should be planning with a world map on their wall.

This is just our story.  Tell yours.

Does your curriculum director have a map on the wall?
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Daily Spotlight on Education 03/18/2009

  • Social networking style stock market game - Stockmarket 101. For those teaching finance - thi sis a more grown up version of the game for high schoolers.

    tags: education, learning, finance, money, accounting

  • Website to teach you about how the food got to you! This is a really neat website for elementary teachers who discuss food production. There is a resource for teachers as well. As a farm girl, it is great to see a site that discusses the importance of farming. This is so important for kids to understand.

    We garden at our school and it is great!

    tags: education, history, farming, elementary, curriculum

  • Just received the press release on this new one. $4.95 a month and you have access to videos to help with homework. There is a growing business based upon videos for learning -- that is because kids clamor for them.

    Textbooks, and teachers need to see the value in things like Eric Marco's Mathtrain.tv and other screencasting for teaching. Have the kids make their own tutorials for one another -- or you can just subscribe, I guess.

    tags: education, learning, math

  • Lists do always get a lot of people riled up, but I did find some interesting tweeters on this list to follow. Some of them I wouldn't add, but some are cool.

    If you want to see some great twitterers -- my follow list is around 1600 and there are some amazing people that I'm following who just totally blow me away. (Add more daily.) Just go to http://www.twitter.com/coolcatteacher and click following to see them.

    Twitter is really a great tool for learning.

    tags: education, twitter, learning, technology, edu_news

  • Will you help my students decide the title for their new book. In order to fund their dream of going to next year's Flat Classroom conference, they have decided to take their knowledge from the year and pour it into a book.

    Here is what they said:

    "How do students learn about technology? Do they read HUGE text books that seems to be in a language that they can't even understand. Are they turned loose to try to find their way around the computer with absolutely NO guidance? Well all of that is about to change. The Digiteen Dream Team is about to break ground on a new project, a project that can change the way that people think about being digital. We plan to write a book. I know this is a major feat. Can you imagine a book with authors that are 14 or 15 years old(with a little help from their teacher?) A new generation of writers, and a new type of book about to be born. Oh yeah, we want you to be an author of this book too. Throughout the course of the next six weeks, we will be posting questions, stories, and even parts of our book that you will be allowed to edit. This book will not only be written by the Digiteen Dream Team, but also by the rest of the world. This book will revolutionize how you learn about being digital."

    Please click here and go vote on the title that you like. Expect a wiki forthcoming and also lots of great information as they involve you (and your students) in this book. Feel free to involve your students as part of this.

    We need some money for a new computer lab and cannot really do official school fundraisers for the trip to the conference. This is exciting and they are phenomenal. I'm ready to read it too.

    tags: education, learning, digiteen

  • IN this post over on netgened, it explains why we outsource video, how this works, and the thinking behind why we have outsourcing.

    This is a fundamental component of flat classroom projects, except for digiteen, which does not have a video component.

    tags: education, learning, netgened, flatclassroomproject, worldonline

  • Live from Apple Iphone OS 3.0 preview event. Really cool.

    tags: education, gadget, edu_news

  • Cool Webinar tomorrow - Live Webinar with the Folger Shakespeare Library on Wednesday, March 18 from 8:00 - 9:30 p.m. Eastern Time (5:00pm start Pacific Time, 12 midnight GMT).

    Our speakers will present and demonstrate methods for teaching Shakespeare using digital media. The educational activities to be presented were developed by trained workshop leaders and teachers during the Folger's Teaching Shakespeare Institutes and sessions. Participants will learn practical and exciting ways they can incorporate Shakespeare's King Lear and other literary works into history, social studies, English, and language arts instruction.

    I try to understand why we cannot use these as credits - they are free and they are announced a few days a head of time -- but still, they are valuable learning experiences.

    tags: education, learning, edu_news

  • OK, although David Warlick has been doing this forever, I'm going to learn how to mobile blog. I enabled my phone and here are the instructions for blogger - am going to use the instructions to blog to my blog, not exactly just a mobile blog, but still, it will be cool. Trying to figure out if I can send video.

    tags: education, learning, blogging

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

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

So, what is outsourcing and why do we do it.

This is a copy of a post over at netgened I just wrote explaining to the students why and how we do outsourcing of video as part of the project:

Right now, we are outsourcing pieces of our video to students in other classrooms.

What is outsourcing?

Outsourcing is when part of a student video in one classroom is requested of a student in another classroom.

How does outsourcing work?

We have developed a Wiki tutorial with videos about how this works. For netgened, the students are requesting and signing up for videos on the NetGenEd wiki. This is happening NOW!

Why do we outsource?

1) Vision and Effective Digital Storytelling Planning

It requires the student producing a video to have a vision of their video - storyboarding and scripts are an important part of creating a good video, and in order to ASK for someone else to do a video, you have to truly think deeply about the story you're trying to tell.

2) Interdepenence

Outsourcing demonstrates to students (and teachers) the interdependence of the world. We depend on each other. We count on each other. We have to do things that make us uncomfortable.

In this case, it is following someone else's directions and doing something for them and delivering it in a timely fashion.

3) Thinking Skills Required
Face it -- outsourcing can be tough. You have to think through multiple things that have to be done. Making the video, converting the video, uploading the video. Downloading and converting your video to the correct format. This requires some real thinking on your part -- it forces you to a much higher level of troubleshooting and work than just watching your teacher click on Print in the Word processor.

Today's world of technical knowledge is not simple point and click -- it is complex and that is what you have to be able to handle in today's world.

4) Your Importance
So, anything requiring rote, routine capabilities can be outsourced to almost anywhere. The difference is creativity and vision. Thus, that can only be done by YOU -- you are an essential part of this equation. Anywhere there is a person who can think... who can design... who can do something original... who can forecast... who can invent... who can collaborate... who can work with others... who can appreciate and understand people from other cultures... these are the people who will not only be employable, but successful in the future.

Your future.

For you are, NetGen!

Get the outsourcing DONE!

Daily Spotlight on Education 03/17/2009

  • The Google Maps resource for those who like to fish -- this mashes up fishing locations with a google map and is a great resource to help kids in rural areas (or who like to fish) understand what geotagging means. Using it as part of netgened.

    tags: education, learning, fishing

  • Many people have not read the Youtube Community Guidelines. You should report any videos that break these rules to youtube - everyone should have a youtube account and be able to do this. Today, a student had a bad video linked to hers -- I had to go to another place to report the other video but you can do this!


    "Don't Cross the Line

    Here are some common-sense rules that will help you steer clear of trouble:

    * YouTube is not for pornography or sexually explicit content. If this describes your video, even if it's a video of yourself, don't post it on YouTube. Also, be advised that we work closely with law enforcement and we report child exploitation. Please read our Safety Tips and stay safe on YouTube.
    * Don't post videos showing bad stuff like animal abuse, drug abuse, under-age drinking and smoking, or bomb making.
    * Graphic or gratuitous violence is not allowed. If your video shows someone being physically hurt, attacked, or humiliated, don't post it.
    * YouTube is not a shock site. Don't post gross-out videos of accidents, dead bodies or similar things intended to shock or disgust.
    * Respect copyright. Only upload videos that you made or that you are authorized to use. This means don't upload videos you didn't make, or use content in your videos that someone else owns the copyright to, such as music tracks, snippets of copyrighted programs, or videos made by other users, without necessary authorizations. Read our Copyright Tips for more information.
    * We encourage free speech and defend everyone's right to express unpopular points of view. But we don't permit hate speech (speech which attacks or demeans a group based on race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, veteran status, and sexual orientation/gender identity).
    * Things like predatory behavior, stalking, threats, harassment, intimidation, invading privacy, revealing other people’s personal information, and inciting others to commit violent acts or to violate the Terms of Use are taken very se

    tags: education, youtube, learning, video, digitalstorytelling, edu_trends, digitalcitizenship, administrator

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

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Daily Spotlight on Education 03/15/2009

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

Friday, March 13, 2009

Daily Spotlight on Education 03/13/2009

  • Sometimes teachers reach out and find others are not there. This is what it takes to set up collaboration. I've found that it takes a teacher totally committed to eventually find a person to connect with -- it takes two determined teachers to make it happen -- her experiences are similar.

    So, if you have students who speak mostly spanish and would like to collaborate -- please please connect and leave a comment on this post. Share resources and places that you're connecting. Sometimes, twitter, as she says, does end up being the best way to connect.

    tags: education, learning, flatclassroom, connections, language, edu_trends

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

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Daily Spotlight on Education 03/12/2009

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

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

This is the edge and it ROCKS!

Our weekly teacher meetings in Elluminate have come to be one of the highlights of my week.  Just got off of elluminate with over half of our teachers for Netgened-- the countries represented?  Qatar, Pakistan, Australia, US, New Zealand -- about 9 of us there.  It was a GREAT meeting.

I think the reason I love it is that it is REAL teaching.   Our struggles and discussions today:
  • Helping students understand COLLABORATIVE writing (they want to write their piece in word, paste it in and sign their names) -- COLLABORATION requires higher order thinking by definition and is tough to teach.
  • Storyboarding and helping the students accurately request video from their partners in other classrooms.  This is tough because they have to convey the vision.
  • Discussions of ongoing interactions with Don Tapscott to discuss the 8 net gen norms!  The kids LOVE HIM.  Especially after he pulled the bait and switch on them in his first video.  (All the teachers laughed -- the kids were throwing things at the smartboard when we showed the video!)  They're talking about customization right now.  (Anyone can join in!)
  • Our Help resources on the wiki and what needs to be added.
  • Planning the potential for an awards ceremony in OpenSim -- ready to move into a virtual world.
  • Deadlines!!! ;-)
  • Helping kids connect who are having some things blocked at school. (Sonniya in Pakistan has her kids working at home.)
  • First time teachers struggle with a project of this immensity -- Julie and I were able to put our toe in the water -- but now this project is immense and any teacher who makes it through is a hero in my book!  
  • Elluminate student summits at the end and how everyone is going to put those into Google Cal so I can put them in elluminate with the correct dates.  (Did I tell you timebridge is our BEST FRIEND?)
  • Just reflecting on how excited the kids are.
  • The great Digital Storytelling Webinar by Hall Davidson with the spectacular Discovery Educators Network today.
And this was just in ONE HOUR!!!   It was rich, full of ideas, and very, very real.  Hats off to the brave (yes I said brave) teachers who undertake this sort of project and the amazing administrators who empower this!

And when we're done -- we all laugh because we never know what to say --so today it was Good-morn-after-evening.  Soniiya went to bed (she stayed up until 2 am) and Julie and Sam did too!  I'm headed home to cook dinner and Anne and Steve are headed to school.

This world is not flat - it is very very round and yet, with those who are willing to connect any place anywhere anytime -- it is a hugely enriching experience that is transforming us all.

There is no bungee jumping, skydiving, snowboarding adrenaline rush-inducing activity that can replace how I feel after a session like this.  This is the edge.

And all of us who "flatten" and do this sort of thing -- we'll never go back to teaching inside the box.  Our box is round and world sized and beyond and this is the way I want to be for the rest of my teaching career. 

Once you've gone flat, you can never go back. ;-)

Good morn-after-evening, my friends.  Remember your noble calling and teach like your life depends on it - for truly the future of this world does.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

So, does "virtual attendance" mean anything to students?

This year, we took four students to the Flat Classroom conference. I've been asked, "so, what about the other students?"

They participated virtually and then gave their reflections on the Conference. We are working to improve the virtual participants for next year's conference, but for now, here are the blog posts that resonate with me the most:

Kayla says:

"While I was participating in the Flat Classroom Conference virtually, I began to realize that this project has more meaning than just a classroom assignment, or busy work for the students. Several people have taught me that there is hope in this world. Watching Jeff discuss issues around the world i realized just how advanced the world is and how much in control we are...

hearing about the camels, seeing the videos, blogs; one by Emily, was really motivational to me, and pictures made me see the middle east in a whole new light. Before, i was slightly frightened thinking about being around the people with the turbans on their heads, thinking they were a threat to North America and our society. But i now realize they are people just like us, and they want to make the world a better place as well."

Kathryn says:

 "I think that this conference helped change my view of the Middle East. At first, I didn't think I wanted to attend because it was so far away, but the people who did go had an awesome time. It has changed how I view the Middle East because I have seen pictures from the conference and Qatar looks like a beautiful city. Overall, I think it was a great project and conference, and I think that it definitely helped students realize everything that we can change in the world just by working together."

Joy says:

"My views of the Middle East have changed somewhat. I didn't go so I didn't get to interact with the people from the Middle East, but the people who did go were very complimentary. I think Americans make the common misperception that all Middle Easterners are terrorists, but that is wrong. This has opened our eyes to their culture."


Jake K says:

"My view on the middle east has changed a little bit. I used to think when I heard middle east the first thing that came to my mind was the the War in Iraq. But now after talking to John who went over to the conference in Qatar my view has changed. Now I do not think terrorists because the middle east is just like all the other places in the world, it has good and bad people just like everyone else. From talking to John I have realized that the middle east is no more dangerous than anywhere else in the world."

So, the point to take away here is that:

  1. Connect students FIRST to build trust so that you can eventually meet face to face.
  2. Face to face meetings always force students (and adults) to face their stereotypes and either change them or reinforce them.
  3. Good experiences can change long-held stereotypes that are reinforced by a nation's media.
  4. The media does not always tell the truth.  (We know this but do we REALLY know this!)
  5. Student views can be changed when only a few of them go somewhere.  Virtual participation should be a part of any "class fieldtrip" for those who cannot attend in person.
  6. Never underestimate the power of connection.
We are building the bridges today that the society of tomorrow will walk across. Unfortunately, some schools are building walls.

So, really - there are two choices for schools.
  • To build the BRIDGES today that the society of tomorrow will WALK across.

  • To build the WALLS today that the society of tomorrow will have to BRIDGE in order to advance.

How will the future remember your school?

Daily Spotlight on Education 03/11/2009

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

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Star Flat Classroom Teacher Salim Al-Busaidi speaks out on TV in Oman

One of the great heroes who has emerged from the Flat Classroom projects is Salim Al-Busaidi.  His students were phenomenal participants in two projects and also have their own global collaborative work spreading environmental responsibility.

In addition to this, Salim is a person who shows great respect and honor to all who know him.  He and his students not only made some Omani sweets to share, but presented the speakers and the school with a beautiful crystal Omani sword which is now in a treasured location at the entrance of our school and in my den.

Here, he presents his global collaborative work and also Flat Classroom projects and the conference held in Qatar this year.  This video is in Arabic, so it is for those Arabic-fluent readers of this blog.  We hope to have a translation at some point.

For those of you who speak English and wish you had a translation -- think of how others feel when we have GREAT videos without translating them for others.  It helps to see the other side sometimes.

Find more videos like this on Flat Classroom Conference

Thank you, again, Salim.   The world needs more people like you!  You work hard, you are kind and accepting of others, and you love your students!

And for those of you who want to see more. Here is a great video his students produced in English about their experience.

Find more videos like this on Flat Classroom Conference

Truly, the flattening experience which is not just happening here- but all over the world in tiny pockets of innovative, connected teachers is beginning to spread.  This is what needs to happen in more places!

Daily Spotlight on Education 03/10/2009

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

Monday, March 09, 2009

Daily Spotlight on Education 03/09/2009

  • Really love the monster project by Anna Baralt and Ann Oro. This project: "encourages the development of reading and writing skills while integrating technology into the classroom. Using monsters as a vehicle, students exchange written descriptions via this wiki, and then recreate their partner's monster without ever looking at the "real thing". During the project, students create, discuss, describe, interpret, analyze, organize and assess their monsters as well as the monsters of their peers."

    This is a Grade 1-3 Flat Classroom -style project that is GREAT. Although it already started, it is wonderful. Only tip is NOT to call it "spring" -- because of the southern hemisphere connection - rather, it should be 1Q09 or something of that type. (The only reason I know that is Julie Lindsay drills it into my head.)

    tags: education, learning, flatclassroom

  • The course I'm doing at NECC on 6/27/2009 from 12:30 - 3:30 at NECC.

    tags: education, learning

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

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Making the Case for Cell Phones in Schools

My husband and BFF, Kip, has been with me on the last leg of my trip to the amazingly incredible CUE conference in Palm Springs (NCTIES before that.) We're now in Salt Lake City for a two hour layover and he's TRYING to read the latest Tom Clancy book.

He is director of engineering of a manufacturing plant and has a genius mind for efficiency, managing people, AND making technology UNDERSTANDABLE to the average person.  So, I asked him, "What is the most important point that you heard at the CUE conference?"  (Mind you - he sat in on 4 of my sessions Friday - so this is his take on it.)

His answer:
  • He is incredulous that we punish the tools and not the person.  That he can't take a pair of scissors on an airplane and yet, scissors are a standard item in every classroom in schools.   And yet he can take a cell phone and use it openly and freely anywhere and yet  the cell phone is what is banned in most schools.
He is an efficiency expert, mind you, on something called Lean 6 Sigma - which is about efficiency and eliminating waste.

Here we are dealing with budget cuts and struggles - trying to find money for technology.    Remember that there is more computing power in most cell phones than in computers in 1997.

So, let's look at this cell phone phenomenon with some statistics released in January 2009 (about the US as an example) by the Center for Digital Democracy:
  • For kids 8-12 (called tweens) - 46% use cell phones
  • Four out of 5 teenagers (80%)  have a cell phone with 51% of those who use cell phones using it to "get important information."
OK.  So, let me ask you this.  Do you have enough computers for 80% of your students to use them at one time?

Hall Davidson gave a great presentation yesterday on cell phones which is a must read for those talking to their administrators about allowing cell phone use in the classroom.  I received permission two years a go to use the cell phones in lesson plans as needed.  We pull them out at least once a week in most classes.

Now, one of the objections is "expense."  I send a note home the first day of class explaining that we do use the texting feature of the cell phone (not the Internet feature as that it expensive now) and ask if the student has unlimited texting.  If they don't have unlimited texting, I ask if the student has permission to send about 10 text messages the first week of school and 2-3 thereafter.  If not, the student doesn't use their cell phone and uses an alternative (using the Google Cell phone text simulator.)  I want them to know how to use the cell phone.  Now if you want to see my own lesson plan and outline for how I start the year with these, please see the post Kicking the School Year Off Web 2.0 Style with Cell Phones.

Well, there are a lot of complaints as outlined in the blog post "Spies Like Us," however, Kip (my husband) is right:  we've got to get at the BEHAVIOR and use of these tools.

 Some great resources on this topic:

This is near and dear to my heart as in my "previous life" I was a General manager of a Cell phone company and was very excited that NECC accepted my workshop for the Saturday before NECC about how to effectively use cell phones in the classroom.

10 Reasons Cell Phones Should Be Allowed In Schools

So, thinking through, here are 10 reasons I think cell phones should be allowed in schools.
  1. Cell Phones Can Save Us Money

    They are NEARLY ubiquitous and can alleviate some of the strain and cost of our infrastructure.

  2. Cell Phones Can Help Students Be More Organized

    Most students WILL NOT carry a paper planner.  We need to integrate their cell phones and/or iTouch devices as their planner - giving them homework reminders, letting them poll, podcast, vodcast, blog, and study using these mobile devices.  They have them with them ALL of the time which make is perfect for using as a planner.  When I took the Franklin Covey planning course, rule number 1 was "Always have your planner with you."  Kids can be reminded of things from their Google Calendar, which integrates with the calendar I use for planning.

  3. It Makes Kids More Safe

    Because of safety issues, I think that eventually someone will have a legal liability because a student was in trouble and WAS NOT able to use their cell phone.  I think that schools should all have SMS notification services in the case of emergency and that it is a vital lifeline for safety.

  4. It Allows Sensitive Issues to be Kept Private
    I have a real problem with kids names being called over the loud speaker for detention or even to come to the office. This is private.  I think that a text message from the front office preceding such a thing is a lot more respectful and would probably get them there faster.

  5. It Alleviates Strain on the Network.
    Cell phones are a separate network and thus do not go over the local wireless.  Their effective use can provide an alternative method of accessing the Internet and/or querying short bits of information.

  6. It Alleviates Strain in the IT Department
    Cell phone troubleshooting is not something that is needed.  If a child has problems, let them use a laptop, check out an itouch from the library or use a computer.  However, the use of cell phones for small queries and tasks alleviates the use of computers for small tasks.

  7. It Speeds Up Information Retrieval
    If you do not have to turn on cell phone - there is zero boot time.  If you DO have to turn it on, you're looking at 3-4 seconds.  Time your laptop's boot time. I have a PC and it takes at least 3 minutes to be functional.  I find it is much easier to have my students define words and query google with a text message.

  8. It Allows Us to Teach Kids Digital Responsibility and Citizenship
    I was at Disney and a child was lost.  He knew his phone number but NOT his area code.  I found the area code using Google search and we had Mommy there within moments.  Kids should KNOW how to retrieve information easily from SMS.  Additionally, self control about texting is a PROVEN problem for many kids.  Learning the self discipline to use this tool when appropriate is part of life.  By allowing them to be present and NOT used - we're letting kids learn the self discipline to focus and use the tool when appropriate.

    I believe in allowing distractions in my classroom and coaching the kids to focus.  I think this is much better than the "police state" type filtration and technology policies that many schools have.

    I would like to say that by "outlawing" cell phones we've pushed them into the private places of the school like the bathrooms and locker rooms which is precisely where we DO NOT want them to be!  (See the rule listed below.)

  9. It Sets a Model for Effective Change and Innovation

    In Hall Davidson's speech, he mentioned that Cuba finally allowed cell phone use in their country last year.  The only remaining places that ban cell phones?  The Taliban and Schools are the only two entities that now ban them in the world.

    This is a useful tool and part of life. Hall also mentioned how in the 1970's that calculators were banned.  Now, we use them.  It is time to "get over it" and "coexist with it."

  10. You're fighting a losing battle.

    Many educators are seeing that truly, banning cell phones is not a battle that is going to be won.  I think that parents are going to demand that it be on their child for safety reasons.  The chaparone feature lets the parents use GPS to know where their child is at all times.  This is something parents are going to demand, that it be on their child and ON.  I just think it is moving to this.

So, how are we going to "deal" with cell phones?

Just like we "deal" with scissors.
  • Age appropriate use and set up.
  • If we catch a kid running with scissors, we discipline the kid - not get rid of all the scissors!
  • Define acceptable use policies for cell phones that kids and parents can live with.
  • Adequately communicate so there is not unacceptable cost for parents for things done at school. 
  • Share best practices for using cell phones.
  • Encourage all of the companies that service education to allow integration of cell phones into just about everything.
  • Use cell phones for what they are good for and PUT THEM UP when not in use.  If they are out when they are not supposed to be, we deal with the child and put the cell phone on our desk.  (I take them up if they are being used when I didn't tell them to.)
  • If we're concerned about cell phones - move to 1:1 mobile devices like an itouch, which I personally think is better than a cell phone for most anything anyway.
  • I am going to ask my school to go ahead and pass a rule at the school patterned after a rule at the hotel for CUE.  I would like a sign in all bathrooms and locker rooms that says something like this:  "The use of cell phones, photography, and videography equipment in all bathrooms, locker rooms, and any areas used as changing areas is strictly prohibited on this campus."  In fact, I believe this should be a LAW everywhere.  It is a law whose time has come and the reason we haven't done it sooner is because we SAY we don't allow cellphones.  What we've done is pushed these devices to PRIVATE areas which is where we DO NOT want them.
Kip is right -- we're making a mistake here with this tool.  We want our kids safer.  We want to cut costs.  We want to help them be more organized.  We want to be more relevant to this generation.  We want to advance education into the 21st century.

And that, my friend, means, that we welcome cell phones into the world of education.  They are our friend, not our enemy.

For now, I think teachers have to get special permission for their inividiaul classes and remember that EVERYONE is looking at you.  Use them well and see them move to other rooms.  Use them poorly and you stop progress.

Now, we have three of us at Westwood using cell phones and soon to be another.  One middle school teacher uses the digital recorder in the phone to proofread and write papers -- and has 4-5 nonactive cell phones for kids to use who don't have one -- the recorder still works and REALLY helps the kids see their writing errors.  Soon, our language teacher will do the same thing.

Oh, and I'm doing a workshop on this at NECC the Saturday before it starts. 
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Disqus Comments for Cool Cat Teacher Blog