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Archive for March, 2008

Tonight begins round three of OpenPD, we have made a few changes this round. The class will be held from 5:00 – 6:00 PM EDT, check your time zone here. We will have another face to face session joining us from the Magnolia School District in Texas. Jamie Gustin, who attended our last session of OpenPD, is now inviting teachers in his district to participate. All of the connection information is available on the wiki, we will be using Skype and Ustream as we have in the past, sign up for accounts if you have not already and plan on joining us. The agenda is posted, we will be starting with creating you own wiki and hope to move ahead to more advanced options in both wikispaces and also blogging.

We are looking forward to teaching the course again and also to having more people join us. It has been a wonderful experience and we anticipate the same for the following 5 weeks, see you tonight!

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I did feel out of step on Monday talking about the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, ISTE NETS standards, and the role I believe both need to play as different content areas go through the curriculum review cycle within our district. Out of step because of the 57 people I was talking to, only 8 had any inkling of the relevance either of the organizations had in relations to education, or why the information they publish would have any bearing on what happens in classrooms. I don’t believe there is not room somewhere in our curriculums for things to change, for students to be given the opportunity to help create their learning, be part of their learning, as my hero Cathy Laguna does. Look at Cathy’s classroom, http://team8blue.wikispaces.com her students are doing wonderful meaningful work and best of all its FUN for them! How many times do you hear 8th grade students talk about having fun in science and math? Granted, Cathy is fearless and will try anything and always has a plan B if something doesn’t quite work out the way we planned, but she tries to engage her students using things they like in their lives. They make movies, podcasts, voicethreads, use smart notebook software, probes, graphing software. Her room looks like a studio, similar to what Clarence Fisher talked about in his K-12 Online presentation in October 2007. I wish I had more teachers like Cathy, Sue, Chad, Judy, theses are ones who make going to work a pleasure, always looking for ways to engage students more in their learning.

Our students are only with us a finite amount of time in their K-12 lives, they don’t have time for us to think about whether or not this may be a good idea to talk about for the next 5 years, we need to begin to move now. To bring teachers into the 21st century, then maybe they will see the possibilities for students. So where have you started in your districts? I have suggested holding an administrator’s academy on Web 2.0 this summer, what it means, what it has changed, and the implication for professional practice. Have not heard yet whether that is being considered a valid offering during administrative staff training days, but I hope it will be. What is anyone else doing in his or her districts to get conversations going, or are you having less resistance than I am? Any suggestions are truly welcome.

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The Library of Congress has started to post images from the American Memory Collection to Flickr, check it out. The images appear to be of good quality, in color and from the 1940’s – 1950’s. I hope other educational institutions will follow this example and begin to offer their collections to the public as well in such an easy manner. The American Memory Collection has wonderful photographs, but in my opinion trying to navigate the site to find them is something akin to looking for a needle in a haystack.

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This week I am speaking to curriculum leaders in my district; I will be speaking to them about ISTE’s revised NETS for students and how they lend themselves to 21st century skills. On Friday I was surprised to have someone tell me my conversation should be one of explanation, there exists a need for me to explain 21t century skills and their place in our thinking as we go through the curriculum review process. What struck me as odd is the fact that this will be a NEW conversation in my district. That teachers in my district are not aware of what 21st century skills are, or why those skills / standards put forth through ISTE should have an impact on classroom practice. Am I so out of step to think this should not be a new conversation? I do not pretend to be at the forefront in educational thought, but I have known about the push for classroom reform to incorporate creativity, global awareness, diversity, critical thinking, problem solving, and digital citizenship for some time now. The NEA is a contributing partner in the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, teachers from across the US and 22 other countries worked to update the NETS Standards for students. I guess that is why I am surprised that I have to define what 21st century skills are on Monday. In the state of Pennsylvania, for the past three years PDE (PA Dept of Education) has funded $200 million dollars for Classrooms for the Future, a grant described in short this way:

Pennsylvania is committed to creating schools that can change to meet the needs of students by providing instruction grounded in rigor and relevance that prepares students for career and college. Our society has transformed into what Thomas Friedman refers to as a “flat world” — a global marketplace that is highly competitive and where every citizen has immediate access to unlimited information and to an abundance of continually newer and better services and goods. This environment demands that one possess 21st century skills such as collaboration and problem solving and the ability and knowledge to use technology resourcefully as both a consumer and a worker. High school students are poised to enter the global marketplace or to continue their education beyond preK-12 and it is our obligation to prepare them, within a short window of opportunity, for a “flat world” in which opportunities for jobs and higher education are highly competitive. By focusing on high schools, we will be providing these critical 21st Century skills while expanding learning opportunities, creating relevant and personalized information-driven learning environments, and ensuring in the success of these students. Pennsylvania is committed to creating schools that can change to meet the needs of students by providing instruction grounded in rigor and relevance that prepares students for career and college.

Are conversations regarding preparing students for their future taking place in your schools? Do people elsewhere understand what 21st century skills are, and the importance they hold for all students, for that matter, for all of us as the future unfolds?

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Image Source Flickr user: oberazzi (Tim O’Brien)

 

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