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Friday, May 29, 2009

Daily Spotlight on Education 05/29/2009

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

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Meet Virginia and my classroom! (Video from Edutopia)

Edutopia has launched their new Digital Youth Project and just shared the video with me that they did of my classroom this year.  Some things make me cringe (ok, my room stays a bit messy) and the students are all over the place - up and down.  And yet, this is my classroom, my students are great, my school is a joy and it is a blessing to teach!

Next Thursday Virginia (my student that was profiled) and I will be in an edutopia webinar (sorry I cannot find the link!)

This is the Video about Virginia - one of my students!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Cell Phones and Sleep Deprivation: Are We Finally Waking Up to the Reality?

kiwanja_san_francisco_texting_11Image by kiwanja via Flickr
Last year, in the blog post Kids Sleep with Cell Phones: Are They Suffering fromConnection Addiction? students had shared with me a digital citizenship principle that they believed strongly.
"In this gcast podcast, I discuss what my son told me about his friends "sleeping with their cell phones" under their pillow and texting through the nightI've talked to three different groups of students and all of them report that over half of their friends will cell phones sleep with them under their pillow on vibrate and text through the night."
 This is one common thing that I've shared while traveling around and speaking about digital citizenship -- Digital Health and Wellness and Addictive issues are important.

The New York Times now has an article Texting May Be Taking a Toll in their health section about this very same thing.

"The phenomenon is beginning to worry physicians and psychologists, who say it is leading to anxiety, distraction in school, falling grades, repetitive stress injury and sleep deprivation.
Dr. Martin Joffe, a pediatrician in Greenbrae, Calif., recently surveyed students at two local high schools and said he found that many were routinely sending hundreds of texts every day.

“That’s one every few minutes,” he said. “Then you hear that these kids are responding to texts late at night. That’s going to cause sleep issues in an age group that’s already plagued with sleep issues.”"

The smartest ideas I've heard are one's we've adopted here at the Davis house -- cell phones are to be docked in the KITCHEN between 9 and 10 pm each night.  Does it always happen -- NO!!   Often the cells sneak with the kids into their rooms - and other parents say the same thing.

I had a comment left on the old post yesterday that says:

"Seriously? What is wrong with the parents? I haven't even owned a cell phone (i just don't see the problem with being away from the phone for a period of time). I don't get it."

Well, this comment comes from someone who perhaps doesn't have teenagers.   Teenagers do things we don't agree with all of the time! That is life!  They aren't robots, they are their own person and haven't yet formed the parts of their brain that help them have wise judgment and discernment.

I remember two young kids in one of our training classes for Digiteen (done by my 9th graders for the 5th graders) admitting that they sent 500 text messages in one day and went for over 48 hours without sleeping from it!

Sometimes the kids need to know to turn off their cell, but parents must beware lest four of our fingers point back at us.  I'll never this scene from an old post Going from "It" to "Out" Dealing with Network Withdrawal:

"But there was a little boy in the corner. His kite wouldn't fly.

You see. His Mom was on her cell phone.

The little sad boy with his lip quivering was trying to get the kite in the air while the Mom was giving her half attention as she exclaimed why she didn't like flying kites any more.

Her body was there. She wasn't.

Parents need to wake up
I'm tired of hearing parents complain about kids and cell phones when parents are horrible offenders too!

I see so many people so busy being somewhere else.

We're trying to be "it" and don't want to be left "out" so we forget "it." We forget the meaning in life, I think."

Cell phones are things. Now, if they connect us to people in positive ways, that is great.  But really between 9 pm and 6 am they should be off unless you're out somewhere.  This is NOT  popular view with my teenage son!!! I am really bad for saying it.

But he had a very interesting conversation last night with his Dad about the history of Ireland.  And that is it!

 Parents, what do you do about texting?  What are your cell phone rules?  And if we listen to students such as done with Digiteen, they will tell us about these behaviors and we can deal with them before they even hit our own radar!

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Daily Spotlight on Education 05/27/2009

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

Monday, May 25, 2009

Hatching New Life

The lake was gone. Pumped dry by an unscrupulous farmer, my Dad was heartbroken.  Good farmers, like my Dad, are almost always conservationists.  Dad bought the land and got some government grants to return it to wetland status.

Today, we were astounded.

My husband and eight year old son went out for a little fishing -- what they saw was something that has had our whole family agape.  Thousands of crane-like birds with golden combs in their hair with their nests full of sky blue eggs and tiny baby hatchlings emerging throughout the day.  Additionally, larger birds are in the high cypresses - cranes, ducks, birds that sound like monkeys (we called them monkey birds because we haven't looked them up yet.)  Bullfrogs the size of my head!!!

Never in my whole life have I ever seen anything like this!  We just don't know who to call to tell what has now begun to happen on Dad's land.

We estimate that over the next few weeks the rest of the birds will hatch and eventually the chicks will learn to fly.  We plan to return often to watch them grow - never touching them, but knowing that these birds are really already used to us. They know that the gun we carry would only be to shoot a snake or something that would treat us as lunch!

And yet the beauty of it all!

This land has been taken care of to allow wildlife to grow.  And grow they are.  Now my youngest son shares his birthday with at least several hundred baby birds!

To me, the thing I took away is that when we do things that make the environment right for something - often what happens is beyond what we can imagine or understand.

Dad got a conservation grant, reconstructed the dam to hold the water in, and makes sure others stay away from this property. It is so well hidden!  But the birds have flocked there, feeling safe in their sanctuary, from the racoons and other tyrants that prey on their chick eggs.

Each small cypress tree had 2-5 nests and each nest had 3-5 eggs!  We tried to count the birds, we really did, but there were at least a thousand!  If  you know someone from the Audobon society, let us know!  We'd love to know what these birds are.

For me, beginning the summer, this tells me - when I make my home conducive for family time -- having dinner together, spending time together - we reap enjoyable memories.  When I make my classroom conducive for learning - good, working equipment, passion-based projects to promote learning -- learning happens in ways that I cannot imagine.  When I, this summer, work towards finishing one book and starting another - make the environment conducive to such writing -- it will happen.

You see, one unmutable fact of life is that we reap what we sow!  If you sow kind words and hard work  in wise, productive directions- you reap good relationships and productive happenings at work.  If you pump the workplace dry of fun, laughter, and teamwork - you will experience a drought and misery in the workplace.

Today is Memorial Day in the USA, and my grandfather is always on my mind - wounded in the Korean War, he was a great man, so dedicated to his family.  No one likes war - especially those who fight them, but sometimes they are part of life, unfortunately.

We cannot help the times to which we are born.  We are living now.  We must make the best of where we are and do those things that will hatch forth a good future for ourselves, our children, and our countries.

Building the dam in the lake was very hard work - done several years a go by my son, husband, father, and nephews -- they sweated, watched for snakes, and came home filthy dirty!  Now, several years later, we see new life springing from their work.  New life that wouldn't have happened, or at least wouldn't have happened here without their sweat and Dad's vision.

Protecting freedom and democracy is very hard work -- many men and women have given their lives, their sanity, their health - some came home but came home shattered.  But we have seen new life spring from their work.

Now, we have hard work set before us -- rebuilding schools  into centers of excellent learning, rebuilding homes into places where kids feel safe, loved, and nurtured, and rebuilding countries into places that don't spend what they cannot afford to pay back!  It bothers me greatly to see the debt that has sucked dry much of the hope of the future for so many countries.  If you can't afford it - YOU DON'T BUY IT!!! 

It is time to reconstruct - to build the dams, to sweat and work hard - doing the right things to make profitable businesses, successful well-educated students, and homes rich in what counts.

Somehow life comes into super sharp focus as your boat pulls up to a nest and you see a tiny beak poke and prod its way out of a perfect blue egg.

This, my dear friends, was the perfect way to begin the summer and makes me feel rich beyond measure.  What a gift to witness such beauty!  This is also how I feel when a student finds something they are very very good at, and I'm lucky enough to see it happen in my room.  New life hatches - but not without quite a bit of work to make the environment right.

New life is hatching all around you!

The question is, are you opening your eyes to see it?

Are you getting out among it?

Are you doing the things to make your environment conducive to hatch new life?

Life is all around us -- will it hatch near you -- or stay away from you?  Do you see growth and life or shrinking and death?

Really -- so much of the choice is yours.  You cannot help the time in which you are born - you can help what you birth with the time you have.

Photos (c) 2009, Vicki A. Davis, Creative Commons Share Alike Non Commercial Attribution Share Alike

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Learn Something About Yourself on the Last Day

Sure, it can be painful, but I learn more about my classroom and myself by hearing anonymous student feedback on the last day of school.

Their last assignment is to answer these questions -- when in the last blog post about Last Day Loopbacks, I mentioned the survey, a commenter asked me to share my survey.

This survey isn't perfect, but it is the way I ask them to give me feedback.  Here is the survey, verbatim.

(  ) 8 - Keyboarding
(  ) 9 - Computer Fundamentals
(  ) 10 - Computer Science
(  ) 11 - Digital Graphic Design

In your honest opinion, what was the most important thing you learned this year?

In your honest opinion, what was the least important thing you learned this year?

What do you wish we had spent more time on?

What do you wish we had spent less time on?

What is something that I need to know so I can be a better teacher next year?

Is there anything you want me to know so I can improve?

If you participated in the Flint River project, was it worth the time spent?

What can be done to improve the Flint River project next year?

Is there anything else you'd like to say about this class, Westwood, or other issues that you think someone needs to know to make this a better place?

I love every single one of you.  It has been my honor, my privalege, and my life's calling to be your teacher.  Be safe this summer!  I love you!

This is typed in a Google Doc (not a Google form, because somehow when it is on the computer, they think I can track who did it!) 

Some don't ask because they might get not so positive feedback and sometimes it is obvious who writes things.   What can I do to improve?  "Give me a $100 dollars" -- well, that is just being silly and sometimes it happens, it is OK.

But when you ask them.

"In your honest opinion, what is the least important thing you learned this year?"

And half of the students mention that the textbook was the least useful thing and just to get rid of it.  I find that interesting.

Some of the other interesting quotes on improving things:

"Make sure the other Flat Classroom teachers around the world teach their kids how to wiki."

"Nothing really; you let kids express themselves. That's what important."

"Slow down a little bit."

"Make sure you teach current issues next year!"  (I may not be able to teach the electives if there are too many kids for me to teach!;-)

"We want to spend more time getting to know kids from other countries."

"I like sour candy, not dum dums."

Although, if you're like me, it is hard to open up and ask kids what they think and face it, NOT EVERYONE IS GOING TO LIKE YOU!  The kids who said I needed to give more free time, are also the ones who said I moved too fast!  That is OK.  If some of them don't say I push too hard, then I'm not doing enough!

But, the sweetest, most wonderful comment is barely readable -- no punctuation on this page, and small comments under each question, but the last one is one I will cherish and put in my folder that I keep called "At a girl!"  I pull it out on the worst days of teaching to get through.  This student says:

"I loved this class and you truely have made a difference in my life."

I will say this -- this is my seventh year -- the first year I didn't do a survey and the next 2-3 years the surveys were hard to read.  But now, for the most part, they help me adjust in ways I need to know.   It isn't all about having happy students and sometimes they get mad at me for pushing them to hard -- that is OK.  But what is not OK is not asking students what they think.  They should know that at some point their voice will be heard.  They will be heard somehow -- and if you don't give them a chance to be heard, they will speak out on myspace, youtube, and facebook - or even Rate My Profs.

In fact, it wouldn't be a bad idea for administration to anonymously survey teachers. There are a lot of us who don't complain and just "suck it up" but who might have some things to say.

Surveys are a great thing to do to end school on a positive note for those who are being listened to -- although those who have to read the surveys may have to spend time on real introspection -- we all need to have that sometimes!

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Loopbacks on the Last Day

Today was the last day.  My students were filling out their last day surveys (where I ask them to be open and honest and get 70% feedback that is helpful along with a few potshots!)  Most of them wrote their names on the anonymous surveys -- so much for anonymous!!

Then, we do the typical, "help Mrs. Vicki clean her room" and as the first class was tidying up around 9:30 am - POW - the Network went down.  I ran to the back room to check the server -- CRASH, it was down - couldn't even get the monitor to come back up -- it was bad!  The students kept cleaning, meanwhile I pulled a whole slew of dust bunnies down on my head, shirt, and pants!  As I dashed between my room and the back server room, I kept being interrupted:

Do you know the network is down?  What is wrong with it?  When will it be back up?

Really, I don't mind people telling me the network is down.
  Despite what some think, I spend a LOT of time with students and so twitter, blogging, and often email are not part of my daily routine during the school day.

But, if I knew what was wrong with the network - it would be fixed.  And if I knew when it would be back up, I wouldn't have this look on my face like I'm about to steal the schoolbus and go to the mall!

Right away, I knew what it was.  As I looked at the network traffic - it was most definitely the infernal, the detestable, the ignorant waste of time but fatal loopback error.  Now, not being a super-guru technie person, I'm not sure if that is the technical name, but that is what I call it.  Sort of like a microphone squealing when it is caught behind a speaker, this happens when both ends of the same network cable are plugged into the wall!  As the switch sends out its gentle "ping" (a tiny packet of data) - it loops back into the network, creating more and more traffic until it literally pings itself to death!

After 30 minutes of pulling cable and checking links, I felt gross - all those dust bunnies!  So, I reached to my automatic hand sanitizer dispenser - nothing.  Room next door - nothing.  Teachers lounge -- nothing.  It was the last day, after all.  So, I ran back to my room and not thinking, I put my infernally hard, but dusty head up under the hand sanitizer dispenser to look into the bowels of its workings when - "shhhhhh" -- it dispensed right in the middle of my forehead!  Well, my head was sanitary!

After an hour and a half, I called my technical guru, BloughTech down in Cairo, Georgia -- they'd have someone down after lunch.  So, I ate lunch with my friends the other teachers.  And then we went to a meeting. 

Loopbacks of Life

Sometimes the parents aren't upset, and things are just fine - but everyone is so tired and cranky that we channel tired, cranky behavior into the system.  Everyone else is tired and cranky so they give it right back.  It is a loop back error.

Mama always told me never to make decisions when I was overtired or overemotional.  That means I have to be extra careful on the last few weeks of school!

Every teacher I know is overemotional on the last day. Sure, we're ready to get out for summer break, but in many ways, an empty classroom is sort of like an empty nest for parents who love having kids.  Something is just missing.  The vibrancy and life and laughter and learning -- it is part of who we are.  And now that I have the teaching bug, I really am most happy when I'm teaching.  The last day is great but it is also very very sad.  Those kids empty out and a welling emptiness fills me that won't top off until August.

Yes, I need some rest - desperately and in fact, am writing this blog post at 11:45 pm at night while my graduation movie renders.  This will be my third night this week up past midnight!

So, those of you who might just wonder how my network got back up - my friend Charlie from BloughTech and I had to unplug everything and I set up my laptop to continually ping my internal server (cool trick - just go into the command prompt by going to Run --> type "cmd" then type ping yahoo.com -t and it will keep pinging until you type command C -- or ping google.com or your server or whatever) -- anyway I had to watch this pinging to see when Charlie plugged something in that knocked down the network.  It was pretty instant.

Turned out, I had not one but THREE loopbacks.  We found the first two and Charlie was about to leave but on a hunch rewired a few cables and bam - the network was down again -- we unplugged and started pinging again -- then, the naughty nasty cable was found -- IT WAS UNDER CHARLIE's FEET under the rug in the front of my room-- one side was in the wall and the other came out the other side of the carpet - someone cleaning up the front of my room, instead of plugging it in the computer, plugged it in the wall!  After all - it looked neater that way!

So, we got the network up and I got back home around 6:45 pm -- yes, that is right 9 hours, NINE HOURS, after it happened.

Here are some conclusions I drew from this:
  1. Loopbacks happen - With humans, they happen when the people plugged into the system are overtired and overemotional.  The only way to stop the systemic errors is to UNPLUG them from the system, at least temporarily. Sometimes it means delaying the meeting.  For me it means delaying MYSELF with a little lip control.

  2. You often need someone to help you when you cannot find the loopback -- feel comfortable asking for help from someone who knows more than you do.

  3. Listen to the person who you've asked to help you - particularly if you're tired and upset and they are not!  I was ready for Charlie to go at 4 pm and thought we had it fixed.  If I hadn't said, "OK, Charlie, do what you think needs to happen" - I would have been in tomorrow and the network would have still been down!

  4. Sometimes the answer to problems is right under your feet. -- Look in the obvious places.  You don't have to travel across town or across the country to find your answers -- you might see that an answer to a nagging problem can be solved or fixed by the person who is next door to you.  Take time to look local - you might be surprised.

  5. Sometimes the right way for something to work is messier than the wrong way! 

  6. Sometimes well intentioned passersby try to help and end up hurting.  Let people who really understand things help fix it!

  7. Realize when you're over the top that this too shall pass.
You know - I'm upset right now.  I feel alone, tired, exhausted, underappreciated and defeated.  But sometimes my feelings don't line up with the truth.  And when I'm in the last few days of school - particularly the last day of school with students, like today, I have to make myself wait to make major decisions and pull back when I feel ready to call Tonto to my side so we can charge into the melee.  Now is not the time to take it out on my fellow compatriots.

You see, I love these teachers.  They're not perfect but neither am I and if I was in a pinch, I'd want them to be beside me.  They are good people and they're doing their best.  Often they don't realize when they've totally wounded me but I probably don't know when I've done it to them either.

Today I finished up my seventh year teaching middle and high schoolers (before that it was adults and college) and to be in any place for any period of time it takes a whole lot of forgiveness.

You see, systems flail and die under loopback errors.  And to help this school thrive and succeed, I have to sometimes realize that my own exhaustion can bring the school and others down and should have enough sense to say -
"OK, for your good and mine, I'm going to state my opinion once (if I really have to) and let it go."

Remember, teachers, that you will make it.  There may be some policies that are being changed for next year that you hate with the fire of a thousand suns, but you've had policies you've hated before and you made it.  So, keep on going and remember why you do this.  Your students may be scattered to the four winds for now but they'll need you in August, whether they know it or not.

And the best thing you can do to be a good teacher in the fall is to UNPLUG - at least for now.

Keep the faith, teacher, and remember your noble calling!

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Daily Spotlight on Education 05/19/2009

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

Keep on Keeping on

It is 2:30 am in the morning and I just finished leaving comments on the grades of all my students.

Sunday I went to Wal-Mart and bought underwear and socks - we're out and I don't have time to wash. Saturday it was paper plates when we ran out of dishes.  Last Thursday I sunburned the back of my left knee at Field Day and so it hurts to bend it.  On Friday I slipped on a hotdog in the lunchroom and hurt my right knee -- can't straighten it.  Today when I went to the office to get some Alleve, I had to bring 2 pills each back for 3 other teachers!

The last weeks of school is something that few people really understand.  When I was in business I often thought that teachers had it easy.  To those business people (including my former self) - I ask them to imagine if budgeting, taxes, capital budgets, montly operations review, and quarterly reports were all due in the same 7 days.  Ending school is like nothing you experience in business.

Your friends think you don't love them any more, your family thinks you've forgotten how to cook, and wash and clean.  Your dog wonders if you'll ever come out to play again and the cat wonders why you won't sit long enough for them to go to sleep in your lap.  Netflix wonders if you'll ever mail that movie back and you wonder if you'll get your sanity back when it all stops.

It is times like these I pull out my Grandma's favorite quote:

"Sometimes you've gotta let the rough end drag."

And that is now.  Got lots of rough ends and boy, am I dragging.

But you know what, I wouldn't trade it for anything.  I love these students - I love the teachers I teach with and know that the work is important.  You know what, I even love you -- all you readers out there who are just part of this bigger picture of being driven to be excellent in what we do - equipping and teaching a future generation to live in ways that exceed what we've done.  You're why I stayed up to write this - because I feel like someone out there is going through this same thing right now and needs to stop feeling guilty about having to climb Mt. Laundry to get to the bathroom.

My husband now understands and doesn't ever say a word.  If I get upset he just says,

"It's May, it will pass. Just keep on keeping on, you'll make it."

He's a wise man.  And so, before I go to sleep, I just had to write this post to encourage you.  I saw someone on twitter the other day saying that they were frustrated that so few teachers are blogging right now. 

Get over it!

We're not blogging right now because we're grading, conferencing, banqueting, slideshowing, graduating, field daying, sunburning, gifting, partying, limping, cleaning, moving, straightening, packing, unpacking, cleaning out, cataloging, stacking, and just about any other -ing you could think of.  (Leave off the complain-ing though, please - there's enough of that without adding to it!)

To me, this is the single worst thing about considering the elimination of summer -- it will literally take me until late June (just in time for NECC) to even get my brain back.  At some point in June, I'll look at myself in the mirror and know who I am again.

Some of you go till June, others finish soon like I do and still others are in the middle of the year in the southern hemisphere.  Either way -- know that these busy times will pass and we must throw ourselves into doing our best - leaving comments, saying goodbye well, speaking the words that the students need to hear and modeling the kind of behavior we want kids to emulate when they're in our shoes.

Teaching is a calling and not for those who want some sort of easy lifestyle.  Those who think they can leave at 3 pm and get there at 8 and be successful teachers are completely off base.  It is a 24/7 kind of job and some times of year it is more than a human being can handle. 

Good luck.  You'll make it.

And now, I'll get up from my husband's recliner - turn off that annoying show where people are gambling and losing money they pretend they can afford to lose, make sure I don't bend my left knee and don't straighten my right and head to a sweet but very short nightime nap.  We'll start again in the morning at 5:30 am!

Oh, and those of you who might want to see the students present on our most recent project, we'll stream to the Ning in the morning.
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Monday, May 18, 2009

Daily Spotlight on Education 05/18/2009

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

Flat Classroom 2010 Mini-conference: Mumbai February 2010 - Join us!

Julie and I are so excited about again building on the Flat Classroom Conference of 2010.  It has been a struggle to continue to find funding and the best fit for us this year is a cooperation with the amazing conference ASB unplugged at the American School of Bombay.  I hope that some of you will join us - and if you came last year that you'll encourage others to take the leap.  This is a project based learning conference where students and teachers work together and separately on meaningful projects as ways to learn about technology and improve our world.  It is always a challenge to pull this together and over the summer we're working to secure funding to help students attend (with scholarship preferences going to schools who have participated in Digiteen, NetGenEd, Flat Classroom, or Horizon.)  The last conference was one of the highlights of my life.  I hope you'll read the information and consider joining us in India!  We all go in two days early and the day before the conference, we set up a tour together.  It is life changing in many ways!


Co-founders of the Flat Classroom Project and the Flat Classroom Conference, Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis, in conjunction with the American School of Bombay (ASB), announce the Flat Classroom Workshop and Mini-Conference as a strand of ASB Unplugged 2010.
The one-to-one international learning conference will be held at the American School of Bombay in Mumbai, India, February 25-27, 2010. Interested teachers and schools are requested to read the ASB Unplugged Website and contact Flat Classroom Workshop organisers at flatclassroomproject@gmail.com for more information. You are also invited to join the ASB Unplugged Community Network and the Flat Classroom Group

What is a flat classroom? How do you effectively embed 21st century learning, knowledge, skills and attitudes into the curriculum? How can we successfully integrate global understanding and collaboration? How can emerging technologies and mobile computing be best employed for sustained learner engagement?

What is the Flat Classroom Workshop?

The Flat Classroom Workshop is a 2.5 day strand of the ASB Unplugged Conference. The aim of the workshop is to bring together geographically dispersed teachers and students with a view to learning about Web 2.0 communication and collaboration tools in a flattened learning environment while working on a project theme that can be transplanted back into their home school. The selected theme will inspire unity and action as well as fostering continued connections after the event in India. It is envisaged this will improve global understanding and cement friendships for ongoing collaborations. It is also envisaged that this will provide an opportunity for students and teachers together to 'create the future' of education by employing best-practice use of emerging technologies, including mobile computing. Through exploration of a global or social issue and developing an 'action' plan to work globally to overcome this participants, both local and virtual, will model 'flat classroom' modes of learning.

What is a project-based workshop format?

The flat classroom workshop theme and pedagogy is based on the successful Flat Classroom Conference Student Summit held in Qatar, January 2009. It was at this event that students were challenged to work in small teams towards a final outcome. While doing this essential tools and methods were used but became ubiquitous to the needs of the outcome. A project-based workshop provides an opportunity for participants to practice the use of essential digital learning modes while constructing. Emphasis is put on what we call the seven 'Cs' to flatten the classroom: connection, communication, citizenship, contribution and collaboration, creation and celebration.
More information about the event in January 2009 can be found on the conference network at http://flatclassroomconference.ning.com

Who Should Attend?

Interested schools who are wanting to move forward using Web 2.0 and mobile computing and learn more about a 'Flat Classroom' experience and pedagogy are invited to send a team of 4-6 participants comprising teachers and students. The workshop is aimed at Middle and High school students (ages 14-17). Workshop teams will be made up of participants from different schools and countries. A holistic, cross-curricular approach makes this experience suitable for all subject areas. Schools unable to attend may apply to participate virtually. More information will be available about this upon application.

What will they do?

An essential element of the workshop is to join both teachers and students together in a constructivist learning environment, and by using 'flat classroom' tools, work through a project-based, action-oriented learning workshop. Skill development in Web 2.0 and multimedia tools along with enhanced cultural understanding and digital citizenship support the pedagogical approach to collaborative learning. The skills and tools will provide the scaffolding for developing ideas and putting into place actions that could make a difference to the world.
In summary:
  • Development of skills with Web 2.0 tools including blogs, wikis, social bookmarking, podcasting
  • Educational networking and development of personal learning networks that enhance the learning process and flatten educational experience for all
  • Use of multimedia - honing in on skills that support multimedia creation and global distribution
  • Working within a summit theme that has measurable outcomes and actions for change within a flat world scenario
  • Leadership in a flat world - participants will have the opportunity to assume leadership roles through team work and organisation

Workshop Program (Draft)

The workshop program will be interlinked with the main ASB Unplugged conference with opportunities for interactions and joint sessions (noted as plenary sessions below).
Essential features of the workshop include:
  • Cultural scavenger hunt and ice-breaker
  • Action project kick-0ff
  • Telling a compelling story
  • Project pitch and action plan feedback (plenary)
  • Multimedia and artifact creation
  • Team presentations (plenary)
  • Guest speakers and student presentations
  • Links with virtual partners

Modes of working include:
  • Educational networking through a Ning
  • Other Web 2.0 tools for ubiquitous learning (RSS, social bookmarking)
  • Use of a backchannel
  • UStream and interaction with virtual partners
  • 'Elevator' style presentations and discussions
  • Rubric-based evaluation sessions with time for reflection and refinement of ideas
  • Development of multimedia artifacts - outsourced contributions
  • Team-based decision making and collaboration

What is the Flat Classroom Conference? Why is this event called a Mini-Conference?

The inaugural Flat Classroom Conference was held in Qatar, January 2009, and brought more than 150 education leaders, teachers and students together to Qatar to envision the future of education. Students and teachers from very diverse backgrounds such as Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia, United States, China, Australia, Pakistan, India, Iraq, Ethiopia, South Africa, and beyond came to the Leadership Workshop and Student Summit. The student videos and reflections on the conference website (http://flatclassroomconference.ning.com) show the positive affect that the conference had on reducing stereotypes, not only of the Middle East, but of one another.
This conference was primarily a project-based conference using the latest in educational research in project based learning to rework how content is delivered in a conference format. Using small teams, group presentations, and multiple interactions between students and educators, a rich, interactive environment evolved. Multimedia was a focus, with students exploring topics and creating rich presentations. Many presenters, educators, and students have expressed their favorable opinion in their post-conference reflections of the need to deploy this method of improving education on a global basis.
The next full Flat Classroom Conference will be in 2011. In the meantime regional workshops and mini-conference events will be organised as opportunities arise. The ASB Unplugged event in India will be the only occasion for the 2010 year where both Vicki and Julie are able to be together to co-run the event.

What is the Flat Classroom Project?

The Flat Classroom project is a ground breaking, internationally recognized project which combines hundreds of students from various cultures, countries, and backgrounds into a meaningful collaborative writing and digital storytelling project to study the trends in information technology. After the initial project won multiple international awards and was included in Thomas Friedman's book, The World is Flat v.3, it has been remixed into 11 different projects following the same model. These projects have joined together almost 2,000 students from more than 20 countries and is widely considered a best-practice for as a holistic and constructivist educational approach that creates students who are competitive and globally minded.

The project was co-founded by Vicki Davis http://coolcatteacher.blogspot.com (Westwood Schools, USA) and Julie Lindsay http://123elearning.blogspot.com (Qatar Academy, Qatar) in 2006 when they were located literally around the world from one another. This project uses a wide variety of Web 2.0 tools including wikis, educational (social) networks, cross-timezone calendaring, collaborative digital storytelling and publishing to "flatten" or lower the classroom walls to join two or more classes virtually to become one large classroom.
A little more about the current projects:
  • Flat Classroom Project - The topics studied and discussed are real-world scenarios based on 'The World is Flat' by Thomas Friedman. Students collaborate on a wiki then produce an individual multimedia piece in response to their topic. A clip in this piece is 'outsourced' to a team member in another classroom, so not only do students study the flatteners as discussed by Friedman, they use them in the project.
  • As a sister to the Flat Classroom Project the Horizon Project, as mentioned in Don Tapscott's recent book, Grown Up Digital now renamed as the Net Generation Education project and run in collaboration with Tapscott himself, also lowers or 'flattens' the classroom walls by emphasizing connection, communication, collaboration and creativity as well as higher-order thinking skills and problem solving. This project is based on the Horizon Report released annually by New Media Consortium and the Educause Learning Initiate that outlines 6 trends they believe will be impacting college and university campuses within the next five years.
  • A further imitative recently is the Digiteen Project which has linked classrooms of middle school students from Australia, Canada, USA, Spain, China, Bangladesh and Qatar with the aim of promoting better online citizenship through research and discussion and culminates in each school taking action within their own community to promote this.

In 2009, the Digiteen and NetGenEd projects are adding a virtual component in OpenSim and have gridizenship added as a component of digital citizenship in their work.

Meet the Presenters and Flat Classroom Co-founders

Flat Classroom co-founders Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis have co-created award winning global collaborative projects linking over 1000 students in more than 40 classrooms within the last 3 years.
More information about Flat Classroom Projects, including featured awards and events http://www.flatclassroomproject.org/About
All projects are linked from our portal at http://www.flatclassroomproject.org/

Julie Lindsay, MA (Music) and MA (Educational Technology Leadership) is an enthusiastic, global-minded education leader and innovator. Originally from Australia, Julie has been working internationally for over 11 years in Zambia, Kuwait, Bangladesh, Qatar and soon China. She is a regular presenter and recognized worldwide for her innovative programs using a wide array of Web 2.0 tools and ubiquitous mobile technology programs to transform learning for the emerging digital, "world-is-flat" educational landscape. She blogs at E-Learning Journeys http://123elearning.blogspot.com More details available on her digital portfolio at http://julielindsay.wikispaces.com

Vicki Davis is a teacher and the IT director at Westwood Schools in Camilla, Georgia. Vicki blogs at the Cool Cat Teacher blog http://coolcatteacher.blogspot.com/ , best teacher blog in 2008 by the Edublog awards. Vicki is a Google Certified Teacher and Discovery S.T.A.R. Educator and has been featured in various media including the Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe and educational journals such as Edutopia, Technology & Learning, and Learning & Leading. Vicki lives in Camilla, Georgia with her three children and husband, Kip.
Full bio:http://coolcatteacher.wikispaces.com/About+Me

Selected Awards and Featured Events:
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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Daily Spotlight on Education 05/17/2009

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

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Teaching on the River: Our First School Wide Project Based Immersion Project

Find more photos like this on Flint River Project

Literally, I haven't sat in my chair this week! I've been in my room 2-3 hours a day at least, but it has been up working with students and teachers. Truly, next to Flat Classroom Project, the Flint River Project has been one of the best teaching experiences of my life. I really don't know which is better.

Sometimes I have people who leave messages here thinking that I advocate some sort of technology-enabled 24/7 connection utopia where we are permanently hooked up to technology. So wrong.

As a farm girl, putting your toes in the dirt is so important -- being connected with nature. This past week, the students had science by taking water samples and going back to the lab to determine the water purity - is it drinkable? What quality level is it? They had history by looking at artifacts collected along the riverside in the past. They interviewed experts and historians who live along the river to get their stories. To learn math, they did detective work on hydrology and the massive flooding we had here in 1994, 1998, and recently in 2009. Their literature came in the form of writing poetry while sitting alongside the flint. Their art classes came from the photography and videography. They used technology as they took photographs, blogged, and created videos and shared with others on the Ning. PE was in the form of kayaking or getting on a pontoon boat. Lunch was a picnic on some sandbar or boat dock.

On Monday they will be rehearsing their final presentations and on Tuesday, I plan to live stream onto the Ning through the School Ustream channel at 8:30 am Tuesday. We'll see how it goes!

It took so many volunteers and an amazing curriculum director and principal to pull this off. It was huge - the teachers were amazing - the students were amazing. I cannot say enough about how much we all learned - or really, I can just speak for me - how much I learned.

I won't pretend to figure out how such a big undertaking could ever be done in a huge school or where many parents won't even let their kids go on field trips. I don't know how schools that are so clamped down on because of school safety could consider taking kids kayaking.

What I do know is that it was real, authentic, deep, meaningful, learning - the kind that takes months compressed into a week. Immersion can be done. I've seen nature learning information on edutopia for some time now. It is project based learning but a HUGE, tremendously big project!

Not to tell any of you that my little school is educational utopia, but it is a place that innovates, learns, and progresses with the research we learn in our professional development classes. It is a privalege to teach among teachers who live and breathe teacherpreneurship and our principal expects teachers to be teacherpreneurs.

Perhaps I've been offline because it has finally happened.

So many technology integrators wish wish wish that they could get the other teachers ready to blog, make videos, Ning, etc. Well, it happened here and through this project and it has all happened within this one week. We've all learned in huge ways but largely because the curriculum director told us all we'd present to the whole school, we'd create triboards, every student would blog and create one other post (either pictures, video or a blog) and that every group would create a 3-5 minute movie. Absenteeism, which usually takes an uptick the last full week before school gets out, was literally nonexistent. Everyone was there, every day.

The funny thing is that previous seniors said, "Why didn't you do something like that with us?" Upcoming middle schoolers said, "Why don't you do something like this with us?" These students are working hard. These teachers are working hard. And the learning is intense.

We wouldn't do this every week all year - but it is the perfect summation for the end of the year. It is one of those things I'll tell you more about when I can speak again.

I've run into several parents this week and asked how their children were enjoying the experience -- it has been funny. One dad said:

"I don't know, my child has been asleep by 5 pm every day."

Another mother:

"My child has either been eating, asleep, or talking about what she's learned."

Another parent:

"Whatever you're doing - he's worn out!"

In so many ways, I have a huge, enormous amount of respect for the teachers I work with, our curriculum director, and our principal. It is huge - bigger than any of us - rich in learning.

Those of you who are used to me blogging 5-6 times a week - I thought you might like to know where I was all week! It is still sinking in.

Teaching on the river - it was amazing and the project is not over yet. What will happen next week? What will happen as these students are now conservationists in very powerful ways -- only the future will tell. And it will be a beautiful story it tells, I have a feeling.

When you look at your area and wish your students knew more history - had more of an appreciation for the nature -- didn't litter -- understood the history of your land -- consider getting them out in it.

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Daily Spotlight on Education 05/11/2009

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

Sunday, May 10, 2009

May Marble

Write injuries in the sand, kindnesses in marble." - French Proverb

It has been astounding the responses and emails from the post, He Who Laughs - Lasts .  To me, it just confirms that as teachers, in May, we are hungry for encouragement and to know that we shall successfully conclude another year.

You see, for those who aren't teachers, every year ends with mixed emotions.  Mixed because no teacher truly wants to not be teaching and yet, we're so unbelievably tired at the end of the year that we sometimes feel sort of guilty that we NEED and want a break from it all.

I was one of those misinformed, incorrect people when in the business world.  It is humiliating and embarrassing for Mom to remind me some of the things I said to her when she was a teacher - in fact, I'm afraid to admit the things I said because they are so abhorrent to me now.

There is nothing easy about teaching.  Although the teachers and I at Westwood are so excited about our immersion project, the Flint River Project, which starts tomorrow - it seems overwhelming.  (Camilla  has had a run on Deep Woods Off, btw, if you need some, go about 2 states over - the shelves are cleared for miles!)

So, I could blog about how my amazing principal posted his first blog post last week, or the exciting film work that we're doing with the project.  And how he reminded the students to remember to bring their cell phones next week to school and keep them charged so they could take pictures and send them to the Ning.  I could talk about the cool senior movie we just finished up with Pinnacle 2..  There are so many technology things to share and you get a lot of those through my daily bookmark feed from Diigo.

But right now, it is just plain 'ole unadulterated survival.  If you could see my brain, it would have camo paint smeared between the crevices and be hunkering down trying to blend in with my desk - hoping not to attract too much attention or make anyone mad for the last few days of school.

This too shall pass, but as I was reading one of my favorite books Everyday Greatness: Inspiration for a Meaningful Life
, the French proverb above resonated with me.  Let me say it again:

"Write injuries in the sand, kindnesses in marble." - French Proverb

Last week, our school recognized Mrs. Betty Sue Watson for 20 years of service in our Learning Lab.  Mrs. Betty Sue was one of the ladies who unlocked the potential of my own sister in our learning lab and has earned the love and favor of everyone here -- but we've never told her publicly.  She works tirelessly and quietly, but we've never recognized her or said thank you.  Last week, she was called to the auditorium for an assembly and was met with thunderous applause - she almost left! 

She said she had never been so scared in her life!!  It was a well deserved kindness and I hope she writes it in marble on her heart so she can remember! 

I save every kind note I ever get from a parent or student - even if it is affixed to a gift and have a folder for it!  You see, these kindnesses have to be written in marble because teaching can be lonely and it can be thankless and sometimes for the sake of hope itself, tracing the marble etchings of kindness cools the turmoil of my heart.

We don't do it for the thank you, but when it comes, it is a treasure.

The "Problem"
So often parents are focused in and honed in on that one teacher --the "problem teacher" as they say and teachers are so honed in on that one student -- the "problem student" as teachers say -- that both forget all of the other great teachers and other great students out there in the classrooms.

Isn't it time to thank those who are great? 
To be kind to those who deserve to have such good things written upon their hearts?

So, I'm asking and encouraging you, whether you are a teacher, a student, a parent, an administrator - take some time this week to carve a little kindness into the heart of an educator, student, or parent who needs it.  Instead of talking about May Madness and how upset and crabby we all are - how about make this a time to make some May Marble.

If we all decide to take time to thank those who deserve it and be kind to those who work tirelessly with little thank you (can you say lunchroom workers and janitors) -- then how much more pleasant will May be? 

Let's all work hard to carve a little May marble this week by being kind and thanking those who work tirelessly!

Photo:  Creative Commons - Happiness at Bordon Hill - http://www.flickr.com/photos/helenparker/2452640820/ by Camera Shy Gal
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Daily Spotlight on Education 05/10/2009

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

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Daily Spotlight on Education 05/09/2009

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