Archive for the ‘education’ Category

How do you begin to talk about shifts in classroom practice / pedagogy with colleagues? As you plan to share professional development how do you start? You want those attending to be excited to learn, as facilitators we want to be positive, upbeat and enthusiastic, yet many times we start with statistics which point to all that is wrong, we know the world is flat, and we are in danger of being outsourced. So how can we approach the conversation to build interest and excite people into action? I started to think about how to frame the conversations differently and I found this TED prize winner, Cameron Sinclair who in 2006 began the Open Architecture Network, he sponsors a yearly challenge for teams of teachers, students, architectures and designers to work together to design classrooms of the future. As I watched the video I thought why not use the analogy of physical building redesign –  to the redesign of teaching and learning practices?  How can we design a better learning environments – visioning better classrooms. What new learning spaces do you envision, both in physical structure as well as the what and how of learning? Enjoy the video which I am attempting to embed below, if it doesn’t work click here to watch.


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Throughout the year I have worked with Ms. Stubits, and her third grade class. We have done a variety of projects throughout the year, but I must say I believe the one we are working on now will probably be the one the children remember most. Ms. Stubits has been sharing a story with her students, a friend of hers has a daughter who had been diagnosed with cancer in 2006, her name is Lily Oetjen and the students have been writing letters to Lily and following her treatment through a blog her mother keeps on CaringBridge. CaringBridge provides free, personalized websites that support and connect loved ones during critical illness, treatment and recovery.

As part of their social studies curriculum the children study government, citizenship, economics, manufacturing, products, and advertising. As a culminating activity they have to make and sell a product, identify their market, estimate quantities they may be able to sell advertise and determine a goal.

This year the children as a class decided they would make bracelets, HOPE bracelets to be exact, and the money they make will be donated to CaringBridge in Lily’s name. For the past several weeks they have been making bracelets, writing persuasive advertisements to post around school for their sale to classmates and the school community. Ms. Stubits has been able to create an environment in her classroom for students to truly tie the unit of study into something tangible in their lives. The conversations surrounding citizenship, being a good citizen in their community as well as their classroom and school helped lead them to doing something for someone else. They have worked hard, are very excited about the sale, feel good about helping someone else their own age that has had some difficult issues to deal with in her young life. I commend Ms. Stubits for involving her students in an effort to make a difference and think outside the box in terms of connecting government and economics for 8 year olds into an experience I believe they will remember for a long time to come.

We hope to be able to have Lily meet this group of third graders through a Skype video chat, Lily lives in Nebraska too far for a field trip from Pennsylvania, but through the use of so many collaborative technologies available today we believe we can make it happen. Visit the links above leave a message for Lily.

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In this 18 minute clip, JJ Abrams, (creator of LOST), speaks of inspiration, imagination and his belief in mystery as a catalyst for imagination, infinite possibility, hope and potential. When he writes he sees a blank page waiting to be filled with something fantastic. He believes whatever he writes needs to be worthy of the technology he is using. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our students to looked at writing in this way, writing as an expression of infinite possibility? Take a few minutes and enjoy watching this, I did.

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The legendary story of his ear, the melancholy ballad Don MacClean wrote in honor of him, not to mention the hundreds of original works hanging in the finest museums in the world. Vincent Van Gogh remains to be an important part of world culture, a fascinating historical figure that continues to capture our interest and whose art touches our hearts.

Art history fans and anyone who is intrigued by the great Vincent will love this site. Learn about the man behind the art at this Web Exhibit entitled “Van Gogh’s Letters”. Many of the details of the master artist’s life are revealed through his personal letters, including his diet and penchant for alcohol, certain incessant psychological conditions such as agoraphobia and depression, as well as more intimate revelations such as his personal beliefs and feelings.

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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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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?


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


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The presentation to public and non public administrators yesterday went very well. Thank you to all who participated in the VoiceThread, it was one of the tools that provoked the most attention, especially after hearing what many of you had contributed to the conversation. The majority of people in both sessions were not aware of the ability for anyone to join online networks, (other than students) but then again many had not heard the term Web 2.0 or Read/Write web either, so we spent time talking about the evolution of the Internet over the past several years as well. From my experience I have found administrators are more comfortable talking about what they don’t know when in the company of their peers, more so than when in the company of their building faculty. Yesterday, there were many questions which were great.


I asked all who attended to be advocates for teachers in their buildings or districts, teachers who may come to them asking to use a tool an IT department may have blocked. I asked them all to believe in their staff, really to go to bat for them, because I know many classroom teachers do not feel as though they could ever “win” against IT. And rather than make the argument themselves, they give up at the first “access denied”. We need to have technology literate administrators, just as Karl Fisch and Terry Freedman blogged sometime last year about it is no longer ok to be a technologically illiterate teacher; I feel the same way about administrative staff as well. How are classroom teachers to move forward without support and understanding of what they are trying to accomplish from their building leaders? If the people in decision making positions are unaware of the tools and the possibilities those tools provide for students and learning then I’m afraid any significant change is light years away.


I hope to be able to have administrative staff development in my district this summer, 300344706_bf2a918634.jpg and I hope as a result of yesterday’s sessions there may also be the possibility of offering something similar for all districts through the Intermediate Unit, as was done yesterday. I get impatient I know, thinking so many in people in leadership roles have no idea of the types of networks and collaborations we have at our fingertips. The resources we have available to one another and the sharing that takes place 24/6/365. I have to find a way to bring that awareness to my district.
Here is a link to a wiki I would like to use in the summer for any staff development I do on social networking, networked learning. Thanks to anyone who contributes.

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