Archive for January, 2008

My head is still spinning from the weekend spent in Philadelphia at EduCon held in the Science Leadership Academy. So many have written such memorable accounts of the weekend I am not sure I can say anything that has not been said already many times over. For the entire three days I felt as though I was totally immersed in an educational community of caring. Caring for students, for each other, for our practices, for the future of education – both students and our own. The common thread, which brought us all there in my opinion, whether in person or virtually, was our commitment to expanding conversations centered on how to improve our classroom practices, our thoughts on professional development, building community with our colleagues, in our own district or around the world, as well as with our students. Throughout the weekend I kept thinking how wonderful it is to be part of such a supportive, passionate community of educators and students. I thank you all for stretching my thinking, for renewing my spirit to continue being an advocate for change, for pushing the envelope day in and day out because it is the right thing to do for students, and because I know I am one node in a network of dedicated learners and in our own ways we are all agents of change. I truly believe we can make a difference.

Darren Draper and I lead a session in the morning called OpenPD based on the online class we teach. The class is an introduction to using social software in the classroom and we use social software to teach it. We had a room full of people interested in professional development, interested in best practices involved in providing it, wonderful conversation flowed regarding successes and challenges we all face. If you are interested here is a link to the archived Ustream broadcast of our session. Be patient, it takes a bit to download and the audio doesn’t begin for the first 15 minutes. In talking about new tools for teachers and students, new levels of comfort, shifts in thinking, we model the use of the tools we talk about with those who attend. We believe we’re on to something here, and invite all of you to come and participate with us as we learn best practices in teaching how to use social software in the classroom.

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The new administrators are settling into their positions in nicely. I have had a great deal of contact with all of them in the three weeks and I am happy to say I am optimistic with what I have seen and heard from them. One of the many committees in our district is our curriculum council; those looked upon as curriculum leaders in their buildings by grade level and content area. Our new administrators chair this council and we had our first meeting last Monday to give the members an idea of their vision and direction for the district. I lead two presentations with this group last year beginning the conversations of 21st century skills for students and teachers, learning in virtual environments, trying to nudge those in the room toward thinking of adding new tools into their classroom practice. Our meeting last week continued to emphasize those conversations. Meeting started with Karl Fisch’s “What If” which lead into a discussion of ISTE’s revised NETS for students. The group then participated in a World Café model discussion of the standards.

First course – Identify the four most important educational technology standards for students and indicate why you have selected them. Share your ideas and write them down on the paper on your table. One person from the original group stays at the table to share the thoughts behind the choices, everyone else moves.

Second Course – What are the two standards you would want your own children to demonstrate and why? Write them down. This time a different person stays at the table to share conversations of the choices.

Third Course – Which standard is the most challenging to teach students in our particular district and why?

The results from the third course are:
Standard 5 – Digital Citizenship
Standard 4 – Critical Thinking, Problem Solving and Decision Making

They were also asked to take the NETS back to their buildings and find out from their colleagues if these standards are represented in their curriculum. I am awaiting the responses to this activity. We will compile all the information, the goal being to have faculty identify where these standards are, or are not present, then use the information as the basis for the work of this council. Unfortunately I am pretty sure they will not find representation in the curriculum which will be ok, because now that everyone is aware of the new NETS for students, pointing out the lack evidence in the curriculum will hopefully bring conversations of 21st century skills to the forefront. I know it is a round about way to get there, but I will take any help I can get.

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We are preparing for our second round of Open Professional Development – Social Software in the Classroom. Our first round was very successful and we are inviting anyone who would like to learn more about the free online tools available to use in your classroom teaching or building collaboration to join us in this learning experience as well. The class in the fall was collaborative and engaging in both conversation and the sharing of ideas, we look forward to the same atmosphere and hope to see you there.
When – Class will begin on January 23rd and continue for five consecutive weeks beginning at 6:30PM Eastern Daylight Time, please check your time zone here.
Skype – If you don’t have a Skype account you will want to create one ahead of time, it is free is what I will use to moderate discussion during class via a chatroom. To join please send a message to me, robin.ellis1, so I will have your contact information before we start. We recommend you use a headset to participate in class conversations; this will decrease the likelihood of an echo effect.
Class Wiki – Our class wiki (with the schedule and participant portfolios) is located here http://openpd.wikispaces.com. To join us, please join the class wiki.
Attendance – For teachers who are not taking the course for in-service credit, perfect attendance is not required.
We have geared this class for those new to using web 2.0 technologies in their classroom practices, but all who have experience with online tools are welcome to as well help us demonstrate what we have all found valuable. Hope to see you all soon.

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