Some Big Questions

This morning I came in to find that a fellow staff member at Carol Morgan had emailed me a survey asking to answer some questions. thinking nothing of it, I opened it up to find only three, very large, very daunting questions which i found myself struggling to answer. The questions were as follows
  • In your opinion, what is the purpose of formal education (school)?
  • In your opinion, what are some of the most important things we need to be teaching students?
  • In your opinion, what are the most important challenges students will face when they finish school (including university)?
Certainly we have all discussed in one way, shape or form these questions and their implications for what we do in our classrooms and in our schools. However, never before have I had to try to form a nice, neat , concise, opinionated response to directly answer them. I decided to post these on my blog to see what kind of response I would get from others out there. Being that I think my regular readership is under 5 I don't expect to get a lot back but anything would be interesting. So what is your opinion?

Help Wanted

I am looking for a new spot to host a website, maybe my blog, wikis, podcasts...basically anything and everything I could need. Do you know of an all in one offering like this (that's free or very cheap). If so drop me a line, i would like to hear what everyone out there is using.

0-120mph in a blink of an eye. Welcome back to school

Holy Hectic Batman! It must be the end of August because I am up to my ears in work right now. I just got a "new" lab this year which was desperately needed. By shuffling some computers around were able to put 4 computers in each of our 5th grade classes (a first here at CMS). We moved some of the old high school and middle school computers into my elementary school computer lab to update the computers that were moved out. Needless to say the lab looks great (better than the pictures show anyway) and my room that now connect to the elementary library is ready to go. Those of you who manage computers in your classroom and or a computer lab know how much work it is cleaning old programs off computers and loading new software onto them can be. Minus a few small issues that still need to be taken care of by our wonderful IT staff, we are pretty much off and running and the 07-08 school year looks very promising. Here are the things that I am really excited about exploring and doing this year

  • Last year, the elementary school here led the way in switching to a standards based curriculum and school. This meant a complete overhaul in both the way teachers taught their classes and the way we reported student achievement. Last year we used the old Pearson Centerpoint which has now turned into Powerschool. We found that it was not set up to handle standards based reporting so the school has switched to using Webgrader. So far i am impressed with what it can do and its flexibility in handling the new demands of standards based reporting. In the future I think Powerschool with make the changes necessary to handle this but for now we are forced to use a third-party product. As is always the case when new programs are introduced here, I spend much of my time training staff and then afterwards answering their emails and questions when it comes to problems they might be having. I am always able to tell immediately know how well a program works and how user friendly it is by the amount of questions I have from the ES staff. This year after the Webgrader training I have not had a single question regarding any of the topics we covered. Although I would like to believe it is my superlative teaching, I know that it is the quality of the Webgrader program that is speaking for itself.
  • I have already been in touch with Chris Craft and Kim Kofino about joining Chris's project "Life 'Round Here". It is a digital storytelling contest that looks to dispel the prejudices we as global citizens have about different countries around the world using Microsoft's Photostory to edit and create digital story books. The project looks to contrast perceptions vs. realities in our respective countries. The deadline is coming fast for my 5th graders who are interested on October 31st.
  • Terry Smith a 4th grade teacher in Hannibal Mo. has graciously invited me to join his Monster Collaboration Project. I am rounding up teachers now who might want to participate in this one. Kids, from around the world (are you seeing a trend here?) will collaborate to build a monster for Halloween. Terry has been doing this for a while now and I think it will be a fun project for the kids and as always, will expose them to new kids and cultures around the globe that they will need to work with. Terry and I collaborated on the 1001 Flat World tales project started last year by Clay Burell in Korea.
  • Speaking of Clay Burell, I am looking forward to again participating with the 100 Flat World Tales Project again this year. Last year, the three Schools that participated were able to post our stories with art work and make revisions to each other stories using our class wiki. View the 1001 wiki HERE. You can link to the two other schools wikis HERE and HERE.
  • As I mentioned before we now have all of our 5th grade classes with 4 computers in each of them. Along with the Academic Tech. Director here at the CMS, we will begin working shortly with the teachers in these classes to incorporate these computers into their daily instruction and pedagogy. This should also aid the 5th grade classes in participating in collaborative projects with other schools since the students now have the opportunity to work both in their classrooms and in my lab.
  • I have just started a Masters Certificate program through San Diego State University. The 15 credit, 5 class, Certificate in Distance Education is something that I have searched and looked for, for a while. I liked their course offerings the best and they seem well tailored to where I want to move next in my career-designing online ed. programs/courses for universities/business/or state or private online schools. I have two classes this fall, Intro. to Distance Education , and Project Management in Distance Education . I will be blogging about my experiences in these classes and the program in general in the future. It has been exciting all ready to be in touch with and work with leaders in Distance Ed. like Fred Saba and Donn Ritchie from SDSU
  • Finally, I am working on an Elementary School Wiki for CMS so that teachers can go in and use it like their own personal webpage to alert parents and students to what is going on in class, assignments, etc.

Anyway, guess that's it for now, lot's going on but that's how it is for us teacher types. I described it like going from 0 to 120mph after a long summer vacation. Funny, I get little sympathy from my non-teacher friends...

Fell free to send me what is new with you and the 07-08 school year when you get a chance, maybe we can get something going.



It's Friday So I'll Keep It Brief

Two things I will share today....

First, I stumbled upon this quote yesterday from Jack Welsh, former CEO of General Electric. I thought it highly relevant to the state of education in the US and internationally today. Hopefully it will give you something to think about over the weekend. it goes like this,

"When the rate of change outside exceeds the rate of change inside, the end is in sight."

What does this say for education? For all the conversations, recommendations, proposals, and dialogue I see going on in the blogosphere I still see things going on in the "business as usual" vein where I work. I still see the vast, vast majority of school doing things more or less the same way they did things 10 years ago. So, why is change in education so difficult to initiate? Will we ever catch up? Will politicians and school boards ever get with it and make the decisions and calls that need to be made?

Secondly, I received this as a subscription to
Jamie McKenzie's site. It is an article about teaching visual literacy in the digital age which certainly needs to part of our 21 century curriculum in our classes. It is worth reading and equally disturbing to think about how easily or perceptions can be distorted and manipulated in this digital age. Please read it HERE.

Have a good weekend...Paz.

This story came to me through my subscription to the North American Council for Online Learning forums today. Being a Michigander the message hit a little closer to "home". TOM WATKINS, president and CEO of TDW and Associates, a business and education consulting company, was Michigan's state superintendent of schools from 2001-05. I decided to contact Tom about using his article in my blog and he graciously accepted. I included it in my blog because I have been struggling with this idea of "keeping up" lately (my last post-Of Big Hair and Social Networking) and what and how most teaching in the world continues to look like despite the fact that the world has changed drastically from the time when the pedagogy we continue to practice was effective in meeting the needs of the learners and society is served. Anyway, here is Tom's article.

Detroit Free Press Schools must play high-tech catch-up April 18, 2007 BY TOM WATKINS The iPod-in-every-pot plan that state House Democrats appeared to be promoting and then backed away from last week was just plain goofy. The idea of bringing more technology into our schools, however, is not, and it's too bad that the House Democrats have set it back some when they should have been focused on solving the state budget crisis. That's the best thing they can do for kids. But let's be clear: The students in our schools today will confront a rapidly changing, disruptive, information and technologically driven world that will defy predictability. Will they be ready? The answer is no, if we continue to think our public schools should resemble what they were when today's adults passed through them in the 20th Century. A recent report by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, an organization that includes the country's top business, education and technology leaders, captures the essence of the dilemma facing our schools: "Today's education system faces irrelevance unless we bridge the gap between how students live and how they learn." We need to break down the 2-by-4-by-6 paradigm of today's public education system -- two covers of a textbook, four walls of a classroom and a six-hour school day. As Michigan attempts to catch up with the 21st Century, this state must realize that our children have to compete with the children of the world, not just those from adjacent school districts or states. It is imperative that policy makers and educators address the fact that in a hyper-competitive, entrepreneurial, information age, the old way of providing education must be altered -- and sooner rather than later. Michigan's students must be the recipients of an agile system of education and public policies that effect substantive change. IPods and other technological opportunities can and should be part of revolutionizing our schools. Information technology changes the relationship between people and knowledge and is reshaping in profound ways when and how we learn. Does the rapid evolution into a knowledge-based global society driven by information technologies sound like your neighborhood public school? If not, how can we expect our children and our state to be prepared to compete in the future? In a rapidly changing world, staying even is falling behind. Michigan cannot lead without casting off the anchors of attitude, archaic laws and public policies and beliefs that bind us to the 20th Century, status-quo education model. The House Democrats had the right idea, but rather than advancing the cause, their bumbling may have tied another anchor to the much needed education revolution.
In my response to Tom's article I wrote the following email to him

This issue brings me to start to wonder about school sovereignty. Would schools be more readily adaptable to changing technologies if they were independent of state mandates, budgeting, etc. In other words, if schools we empowered to make the choices that they saw fit would we as educators be able to adapt and “keep up” more consistently to the changing technological landscape that education faces? It also strikes me how much, at the Carol Morgan School, we do not deal with since we are a privately funded school and what that means in terms of the use and integration of technology at this school. It is much easier for me to get the tools that I see as necessary to teach my classes. Whether that be ipods, webcams, land on Second Life (we are exploring this now along with the implications for how these virtual settings might be used in the elementary grades-if you know anything about this please pass it on), money for video conference field trips, etc., as long as my rationale for the request is sound I usually am able to get what I want. However, there is one major component inherent in all of this and that is trust. I have the trust of my administrators that what I am doing as a tech teacher is the direction our students need to be taking to stay “current”. They trust that the tools I need are the tools that the students need and this is where I feel that the public education system sometimes falls short in the US.

I think trust is a very important factor of educational reform. Without trust from administrators, school boards, or state legislators reform seems to be headed towards a dead end. Jeff Utecht has written on the topic of trust and I think it fits well here with what Tom is saying in his article.

Furthermore and on a slightly different tack, I have been struggling lately here with my role and my job. Truth be told, if teachers at my school were "keeping up" with the changing educational landscape and 21 century literacy skills I would be out of a job. We would not need an upper elementary tech. facilitator because teachers, given the proper professional development and resources, would be facilitating their own use of technology in their classes. In fact they would be facilitating it at all they would just be teaching with it similar to their use of a whiteboard, a pen, or a pencil in their class. The truth is though, we are a long ways from this from where I stand. Among the factors I see contributing to our need to "catch up" in education is lack of on-going accountable professional development for teachers, teacher resistance to change, the failure of teacher training programs at the university level to adequately prepare new teachers to meet and foresee the changing educational/technological landscape, the failure of school administrators to "take the bull by the horns" and do what is right for student learning rather than what is right for the school board, local politicians or state legislatures to name a few. Unfortunately what happens here in classrooms I feel is, at least, the norm of what is happening in international schools around the world as well as stateside schools for that matter. The question looms then, will we in education ever fully catch up? Will we ever get ahead of the curve? Will our students ever leave a 12th grade ready for the world that awaits them outside of academia?

I would love to hear any comments or thoughts from those of you who might read this who teach in the states. What are your thoughts about "catching up" Can we catch up? What are the major barriers in your opinion?

images from NACOL.org, http://www.slowleadership.org/2006/06/mistrust-and-trust.html

Of Big Hair and Social Networking

Remember the good old days when things like Calvin Klein jeans, big plastic combs in your back pocket, Gloria Vanderbilt jeans, and big hair bands were all the rage. Remember what we referred to these things as? Fads. That is right Fads. Yep, they have all come and gone (and they might come back again someday-hopefully minus big hair rock 'n roll), but they were just that, fads. Upon return from a very relaxing and very unplugged spring break here in the DR I cam e back to find a number of the edublogs I follow in my Netvibes account were discussing these new social networking sites such as Twitter, Ning, Facebook, the omnipresent Myspace, Jaiku, and beyond. It got me wondering...

There seems to be a lot of talk out there about how and where these fit into the realm of Educational Technology or if they fit at all. Most bloggers are trying these sites out themselves in order to see how they might fit them into their classrooms. I have no problem with this and actually I enjoy reading about their trials with these new Web 2.0 apps.

Stepping back though and trying to grasp what these networking sites provide, and what they might provide educationally, I was struck by an iconic vision of the 80's, the tight jeans with the big comb in the back pocket. Shortly thereafter, the word fad jumped into my head and I figured it worthy of a post here. You may have disagreed when you saw the picture of Poison above but if you're still reading, congratulations. I'll admit, I went to many of the sites I listed above to see what they were all about, most I had already checked out but Twitter for example was new to me. So where does social networking and technology in education fit? Hell, after thinking about this for a week, reading numerous posts, and writing one of my own, I have no clue. I don't see it/get it like many others out there are also saying. I guess I am starting to wonder if we do need to get it. Do we need to include social networking in the tools we employ as educational technologists? Will social networking sites last-are they here for good? And, what about the changing landscape of social networking sites themselves. The massive Myspace population is now losing some people to Facebook. Was Myspace the first of many social networking fads or will it re-invent itself to avoid the outcome of big hair rock n' roll?

Obviously I am not posting answers here but just some thoughts. Should we as educators be chasing fads and should we also be trying to see they educational benefit in every new Web 2.0 application? Would we be better off to let time and good judgement take its due course before actually rushing to the next "new" thing? When did it become important for us to "know" people we don't know and will never meet? What is the educational value in students knowing up to the minute updates of someones personal goings-on? Have we really moved that far from face to face social networking?

Finally, anyone who has ever been to Latin America will tell you about the plazas in the middle of most towns, from the smallest to the biggest you can usually find one with a statue of someone dead or a nice fountain of falling water. While there is much in Latin America that I do not admire, the idea of the central plaza is one that I have come to fully embrace. I now find myself rating the plazas I see driving through towns or when traveling. I guess what strikes me is that there are always people in these plazas, relaxing but almost always talking to other people...face to face no less. In the flat world will there be room and/or time for this type of social networking or will all of these non-virtual meeting places become the ruins of the pre-social networking age?

If you urgently need me...

If you are among the 1 or 2 people who actually keep up with my blog I can be reached on this beach from now until April 9th. You will find me there with a small blond boy, covered in sand and a baby girl doubling as a sand monster. I will be the one with a cold drink, a big smile on my face, and sand between my toes anxiously awaiting the arrival of the daily breeze so I can join my friend Mark and we cruise the turquoise waters of Las Terrenas with kites fully powered.

If I don't see you there, I guess I'll meet you back in the blogosphere on the 9th.

Nos vemos y cuidate!

In Response to Warlick's Question

Please look over at my colleague, Mark Picketts' response to Warlick's posting You just Got the Nod...

Some interesting changes that will take place here at Carol Morgan in the near future that should take us a step or two closer to having a school facility to handle the demands of the 21st century classroom.

Literature circles

This video about conducting literature circles is on Teacher Tube and was made by several of our elementary and middle school staff. Check it out and pass it on to your language arts teachers, reading/writing specialists, or anyone else who might find it helpful. It is a long video so it might take a while to fully load depending on your Internet connection.

Alan November Interviews Dr. Yong Zhao: Part I

I highly recommend listening to the newest interview on Alan November's blog if you can find the time. Some very good forward thinking and analysis about what American schooling is missing in his interview with Dr. Yong Zhao, what we are up against in terms of competing with Chinese and Indian schools. Anyway, I especially found the portions about students as contributors to communities a refreshing idea and one that i have been tossing around for a while. What would a school that based itself on student centered community projects and businesses look like. The kids would come to "work" not "school", they would contribute to a need of the community, they would learn while doing. Certainly this is not a radical thought, but getting there seems like a radical journey from the type of school that is the norm in the world today. My fourth graders for the last two weeks have been working on a business plan of their own that they will then have to execute. Most are selling baked goods but some are offering services. I really have gotten into this project with the kids and I think this is exactly the kind of project we need to see more of to make learning relevant to our students. My favorite student idea is offering the service of waiting in the lunch line for a small fee for students so they can go play . Who wouldn't want to pay that so they could max their recess time instead of standing in the cafeteria waiting for food. And, as the student pointed out (a fourth grader mind you), "there is no overhead in offering a service Mr. D., so I think we can get the most profits that way."


Warlick's got me thinking

Warlick's post a while ago has had me really thinking for the last week or so about my role and my title. Apparently I was not the only one either since the post "Are Computers a Tool?" has had 11 comments. This post started out with the following passage
There are a number of phrases that we use in our ed tech speak that, though useful in some contexts, might actually do more harm than good. One is Integrating Technology or Technology Integration. I’ve talked this one down for years, that it isn’t about integrating technology, but integrating the digital skills that are a crucial part of contemporary literacy. Integrate the skills, and the tech has to come along.
What has me thinking is this idea of Technology Integration and the notion of it carrying a negative stigma, or rather an unwelcome inferred message. I guess my problem comes when I look at my own role at my school, Carol Morgan. As the Elementary Tech. Facilitator (definitely not a Tech. Integrator) it is my job to meet with my grade level teams and to implement technology into their respective unit or lesson plans for a given cycle. However, I'm wondering, isn't that integration? Is it so bad if it is? Most of what I am doing is taking the traditional teaching lessons the teachers are doing in class and adding a tech. element to them . We are making students use digital skills to a task that could also easily be done with paper and pencil. So, am I facilitating or integrating? The computer and the selected program(s) we use for any given lesson is THE tool to take a traditional lesson to the next level but the deeper question that begs asking is what is happening in the classroom? If the computer is THE tool, then shouldn't the kids be on the computer for all lessons? Shouldn't every lesson, every day be about using Digital Skills? And, if this tool shouldn't be integrated but rather just used as if it was the same as a pencil (we don't have pencil integration specialists) than what would that look like? Would the classrooms here be 1:1, would every teacher here have advanced training/degrees in Educational Technology? If the computer is THE tool than what is the need of the whiteboard, the television, the desk, the book, or the pencil? What is the use of walls or the institution, why not just use the computer from home? Certainly I am not saying I am in favor of getting rid of "schools" as we know them now (walls, rooms, etc.)-not yet anyway, but where does this notion of the computer being IT, THE TOOL, THE ONE and ONLY stop? Furthermore, I'm not sure about your school but mine is no where close to being ready for a 1:1 classroom in the high school let alone in the elementary. As Jamie McKenzie often points out, it is less about the hardware, software and wires but more about pedagogy, questioning, and using the computer as a tool where and when it best fits.

At the end of the day for me, If I can integrate tech into what would be a standard paper and pencil lesson that also is getting kids to think critically, collaborate, and carry on conversation about the project or process and use their digital skills to accomplish a task then I go home feeling good.

I thought this blog would help me decide what to make my title in my signature on my outlook messages, but I am still going around in circles like I was when I started this post. I think this week I will settle on Jeff Dungan, Digital Skills Integration Facilitator Specialist. Yep, that should cover it.

1001 Project Update

What a long strange trip it has been....but we have made it. George, my third grade teacher participating in the 1001 Flat World Tales Project has posted his stories to the CMS Elementary Wiki. I will say this, I am impressed how George and his kids went about this project. George seeing an opportunity to tie the project into his curriculum had his kids explore "known" myths that the kids were familiar with. After partnering George with our writing specialist, Cassia they had kids dissect myths and determine what the "anatomy" of a myth is. From here kids were able to invent their own myths about certain aspects of Do Culture, Music, etc. Truly I am impressed and I think this pushed George's third graders to think a little differently about their writing. Did I mention the art to go along with the writings? Each student also has contributed an illustration of their story and Iminican Republic Geography, have not seen those but with the imagination I saw in the students as I looked over some of their myth stories, I no doubt will be equally impressed with those as well.

I will be honest about the next step of revision. I do feel a little intimidated for our kids being a grade lower than the kids we are sharing with and being the only non-native English speaking elementary class in the 1001 Project. But, I guess that is part of the experience and will hopefully be a cultural learning experience for our kids to read what native speaking children write like and vice versa on the part of the classes in the U.S.

Anyway, I have to now contact Terry Smith and Dean Meyer and let them know that kids can start revising our kids and to let them know that we will be doing the same for their students.

I'll keep you posted...whoever you are.

A Call to Question

I finally have found some time to update so here goes it. First some updates. I finally have a class here working diligently to catch up and get their 1001 Flat World Tales stories Posted. I have had a lot of contact with Terry Smith (Missouri) and Dean Meyer (Michigan) about pairing students up for collaboration and revisions. The wikis for this have been working well, and I have enjoyed setting up a wiki for the Carol Morgan School elementary classes. After playing around with it, a little I found it very easy to edit the navigation page, to build internal and external links, and to customize the site. I have a few ideas for future workshops for the CMS staff here kicking around now. George tells me that his kids will have their stories up and ready by the middle of next week and it is neat to see his kids engaged in the writing process. I also paired George up with our elementary writing specialist and she is pretty excited and is tossing around the idea of getting some of the younger elementary kids going on it as well. It was fun to see her get more and more excited as the details of the project became clearer and clearer. I think that is the nature of these international collaborative projects that once you understand how special the learning interactions can be, it is hard to think just inside your own classroom walls anymore.

Other related but different news is that I have led one of my 5th grade classes into the Comparing Our World project that Chris Craft started. Along with Kim Cofino’s class and Chris’ class we will be doing a cultural survey of our respective cultures based on aspects such as dress, food, traditions, sports, economics, etc. While this project is not as extensive as the other cultural project Kim is doing, International Teen Life, this will serve as a nice smaller scale project as we head towards the end off the school year. God, did I say that? It is hard to believe that there are only 2 ½ months left in the school year. It was nice to be able to Skype with Chris this week and toss around ideas and logistics to make his project even stronger. Thanks Chris for being open. Among some of those ideas were formation of some good essential questions to drive student learning and the outcomes for the project. It is our hope that with these in place, the reflection piece of this project will pack more punch for the students and will enable them to see the “bigger picture’ of why these types of international, cross cultural collaborations are essential for learning in the 21st Century.

This all brings me to my final point which I just touched on above, questioning. I am sure many of my readers (do I even have any??? Who cares I’m on a roll) are familiar with the work of Jaime McKenzie and his push for using questioning to stimulate higher level thinking and problem solving skills in our classrooms. As a science teacher I embraced much of what he preached and was happy with my kid’s results. With the right questions, kids are forced to actually think, and we get away from the regurgitative (I don’t think this is a word but I like it so it will stay) state that educations still seems content to languish in. We also get away from having to use plagiarism sites such as turn it in.com to check the originality of student work. With good essential questions there typically is no “right” answer ands they push the students to synthesize information that is presented and to form and opinion or viewpoint based on knowledge. I think this falls in line with what Clay Burell has been also discussing with how teachers might be the death of blogging. Really it all comes back to good educational design in the classroom, starting with the teacher asking him or herself, what is the essential understandings(s) I am trying to reach with this, blog, wiki, podcast,etc. Before we encourage staff to take this technological leap and to use these technologies, we first have to make sure that sound pedagogy is behind it. After determining essential understandings we then should consider what are the big, open ended, questions that we can ask our students to facilitate the higher level, critical thinking skills that we want our students to posses when they leave our classrooms. I feel without these aspects to any unit, assignment, etc. we are simply teaching traditionally, herding our students, and these technologies as Clay notes, simply become more technologically advanced methods of homework collection.

20 Minutes Well Spent

I want to share the link to the Meeting Clay Burell, Terry Smith and I had on Friday afternoon concerning Elementary Schools involvement in the 1001 Flat World Tales Project. The meeting, while very brief (20 minutes) was, as Clay points out, extremely productive for all three of us. Makes me wonder, what if we limited all staff meetings to 20 minutes? HMMMM?

Listen to the podcast HERE

What's Happening?

After reading Jeff Utecht's blog yesterday titled "We're gettin there" before leaving school, I knew I had to write the new going's on here at Carol Morgan. I'm not sure what is going on here in terms of tech. integration, but I have a really good feeling about the way things are going, especially in the last week. I have been working with teachers both in the elementary school and the middle school the last few weeks helping them develop projects. It has been great for me to get back with some of my old middle school colleagues after being in the elementary school and to catch up with them and see what they are doing this year. Here is a snapshot of what is going on.

  • Lissa Swiryn our 6th grade Language arts teacher who routinely uses literature circles in her class decided to give blogging a try. You can view her blog HERE. I set up her blog account with her, gave her a crash course on posting and showed her how kids can make comments and...BAM. She is off and running now. Here is a little blurb about how she gave the kids an option on what mode they could keep track of thoughts while reading

    • "Students are involved in literature circles and come together as a group each class to discuss literary concepts and answer questions. They read independently the night before each meeting. As they read, the students write down questions, connections, or emotions about the book. They have a choice to record these notes in the form of sticky notes in the book, in a written journal, or in a journal response on the blog."
I really appreciated Lissa's willingness to try blogging for the first time, but even more, I appreciated the fact that she did not force this new method in her class on her kids, instead she allowed the the choice to try it out voluntarily (See "Power to the Students"). She know tells me almost 100% of her kids are using the blog. Of course when pressed why they are using it more than paper pencil methods, most answer,"I don't know...It's just cool." Hell, if writing in response to a novel is cool in 6th grade, I'm a happy tech. facilitator.

  • Kathryn Wagner our ESL Specialist in the Middle School has just finished her first podcast with her students and is, I believe, a first here at Carol Morgan. You might say, Ok, podcast big deal, but if you know what a technophobe Kathryn WAS you might get how cool this one really is. Obviously as a first try the podcast is a little rough, but it is well thought out and the writing and composing and speaking (what I feel to be the real value of podcasts) have been worked on and revised over the span of a few weeks. Here is a little blurb from her SharksCast blog (the Shark is our mascot by the way).

    • "My Literacy Skills class is now working on the writing section of the year. One way that we are doing this is by writing for a podcast that we have created pertaining to CMS middle school news and a bit of the outside world. The name, structure, and segments of the podcast were all student generated. Each child is responsible for researching, drafting, editing, and finalizing their writing for their specific segment. After much listening and critiquing other podcasts, we have finally completed our first one. Because this is our first it’s very, very rough, but the kids are pretty proud of their work. To make this even more meaningful, I’m asking those of you who have speakers to share the podcast with your homebase today. Please inform the students that because the first time process was longer than we expected, much of the information is out of date. We plan on doing this every two cycles and we’d love to have the other 6th graders be a part of our process as we continue to get better, smoother, and more creative. I’ve attached a link to our blog which has the podcast link. Also, please encourage your students to log on at home and leave us a comment. Within no time, my students will be posting their own comments on the blog as well."
I am really proud of both these middle school teachers for taking the risk to try out new things in class, to push themselves, and to learn some new skills which hopefully will be incorporated regularly into their classes now. However, i think the bigger issue here is that there is a new spark going on here that is starting to catch fire. Of course we have a long way to go until the majority of our staff uses Web 2.0 daily in their classroom delivery, but I am really excited at this start we have going.

  • Mark Picketts, our HS tech facilitator is working with his students on presentation skills. Taking a nod from Chris Craft's blogs about presentations (Read, 'Don't read to me...") He along with our Seniors are working on perfecting their presentations for their Senior Extended Essay (Read S.E.E. on Mark's Blog). As a content advisor for one of these students I look forward to seeing and hearing the final products that the students have poured so much effort into.
I guess that's it for now, I have some good new stuff to update on Kim Cofino's wiki-Tech in the Middle. Before signing off, I would like to give a shout out to David Warlich's and Viki Davis' blogs today as they both have posts dealing with the devastation in Alabama and Georgia from the recent tornadoes. Take a look at David's picture he posted, it is worth way more than 1000 words.

Mission Statements

I'm not big on mission statements. I know that they are not going anywhere anytime soon, that any organization I work for will have these statements somewhere in a school/company handbook, and that i should be familiar with both statements so I am familiar with the purpose of the organization. My problem is not with the multitude of people who spend copious amounts of time on drafting the perfect one or two sentence statement that encompasses all the beliefs and values of the organization, no, my problem is with what happens (or more often what doesn't happen) once a mission statement is adopted. Reading Viki Davis' latest post on her frustration with school not allowing technologies like skype and videoconferencing into the classroom struck a chord. Currently we are having similar discussions at Carol Morgan School that many other schools are having, specifically how long can we keep out Web 2.0 applications from our classrooms. Things like youtube and skype are not permitted for students to use, actually, teachers cannot use them either. I find this quite contrary to our schools mission statement and here is the rub. A mission statement that reads something like "...to educate students by integrating technology to produce students with a multicultural world view..." flies in the face of reality when students are denied access to experiences in technology that transcend the walls and halls of the school they live and work in. I bet, most of the international school community have mission statements very similar to this.

Vicki make s a good point when she discusses tools and their uses. She writes...

"This is proof that it is not the tools that are inherently good or evil but rather the use of the tools.

    • A hammer can kill someone but it can also build a house.
    • A nail can be driven through a hand but it can also hold the roof over your head.
    • A fist can hit but a fist can also be clasped in your hand in love.

We do not outlaw hammers, nails, or fists -- we teach people to use them properly. "

I like this. It seems to parallel my argument as of late that how do we practice what we preach in our mission statement if we cannot skype directly from our classrooms to meet other teachers, to get involved in cross-cultural tech. integration projects that are happening out there if we are not given the tools by which to do so. How do we expect to broaden our kids world view when wee do not give them the "window" to see out of? And, lastly, and this one is my biggest issue, how do we teach tech. responsibility when we do not give the kids the opportunity to be responsible. I will be the first to admit that the Internet is a scary place especially when you teach elementary tech. and need to keep kids safe, but it is my opinion that i would rather have kids exposed to the Internet, skype, what have you in a controlled environment where they are supervised and where conversations can take place within a group setting about what responsible use really is; what is looks like. Otherwise we are simply putting blinders on to the fact that our kids will go home to their computers, possibly their own computer in their bedroom, and will be exposed to all the Internet has to offer-the good the bad and the ugly, with no idea of what responsibility is when it comes to being online, and to exploring the Internet with little to no adult supervision. How long can we continue to say that we do not want to be the place where sometimes kids screw up and access an inappropriate page or website so that we can displace our role of teaching responsibility to someone else. It is time like to admit like Brian Crosby says, "Learning is messy". Teaching with technology will change how we educate our students, we are seeing it now. Look at Brian's Blog and what he is doing right now with skype in his inclusion video. This was never possible to us as educators before today, and who knows what will be possible tomorrow. One thing is for certain, if we do not take that big step and admit that it is our responsibility to instill responsible use of technology in our students then we cannot fairly expect someone else to do it either.

Multicultural world views do not come about by isolationist practices in the classroom or school. They come about when we as educators empower our students with responsibility and the correct tools and guidance with which to explore our mission statements.

The ball is starting to roll a little faster...

Lately I have been working closely with Kathryn Wagner the ESL specialist in the middle school. She teaches a literacy skills course once a semester and last time we were sitting on the beach together a few weeks back in Bayahibe, DR (I swear to you we sat under this very palm tree staring out at the ocean) we started talking about ideas that she could use in her class that would get kids writing and reading, and doing it for enjoyment more than just another tedious assignment. I suggested that She try podcasting and we started talking about what that would look like. While she had only listened to one or two podcasts in her life, she was intimidated by the idea to say the least. As I mentioned that her kids would have to compose what they would say and would be doing authentic writing and communicating, her interest peaked and she began to see the value in this, especially when I reminded her that they would be able to listen to the stuff on their iPods and that we could also host it on the schools website for the school community and beyond to enjoy. However, like a lot of teachers I work with, when I started to mention using sound editing software (in this case we used audacity) and that maybe she would need to set up a website or a blog to host the podcast on, I could see the excitement drain from her as dread took over. I reassured her that I could help her and this would be a great learning experience for her and her kids, that she would learn while her kids learned and therefore they would learn together. I assured her, "It will be awesome...trust me."

Fast forward three weeks and I have a podcasting lunatic on my hands. Kathryn is now convinced that she is ready to hit the airwaves or should I say "net"waves with her own podcasts. Her anxiety about using audacity has faded and has been replaced by excitement as she uttered those familiar words all tech facilitators crave to hear from thier staff, "that is so cool, and it's easy." Kathryn and I set up her blog-SharksCast, and we made a sample podcast together that we put on the blog as well. Today her students actually recorded their clips for their first official Sharkcast. Kathryn and the kids are editing it down and it should be ready soon.

I don't know about you, but these episodes are the greatest part of my job. Whether it be a student or staff member, I love making them stretch their boundaries of comfort and seeing them grow and learn in the process. Yes, it is cliche teacher stuff, but it is true. Anyway, have a look, cheeck out the blog and send Kathryn an email or better yet comment on her blog. As they say, we'll keep 'ya posted.

Ok, I admit it

I have a confession to make. I am a Dead Head. There I said it...God it feels good. I realize on an educational blog that this can be a dangerous admission, but hell I can't resist. Why the new found pride in my Devotion to the GD? I'm not sure why, but after a rather long break from listening to Jerry and the boys, I have come back in the last week. And then, as if on cue, my Friend Jon Pitale who is now teaching in China (What school Jon?), send me this miracle link this morning. If you like music please check out Internet Archives collection of downloadable music. it is free and apparently legit as well. So I looked through all these bands that had music archived on this site, mostly all live shows and then I saw it. The Grateful Dead with over 2,000 items that have been archived. The smile on my face when listened to Scarlett Begonias told me I had been away too long and that there are a lot of other people out there who are still listening.

I'm not alone and the wheel keeps on spinning.........

I've tried 'em all

Alright, how do i put a picture behind my blog title. You know where it says "goundswell"? It is just blue but I have the perfect picture and would love to personalize my site a little bit, can you help?

Thanks in advance.....

An Intersting Week Indeed

Last week was one of those weeks where I left school with a bit of a headache. No, don't worry, it was not a medical issue and I was not hungover, but I appreciate your concern. Actually it was the kind of headache I used to get back in my College days when i would be cramming for a test or working on a big project. I used to call the "brain aches". Anyway, with the help of my Netvibes reader, I am subscribed to a number of educational blogs (see my blogroll) and as such, I fill my mornings now, at my computer, with a hot cup of coffee and my list of sites to peruse. I am blown away by the quality of good educational blogs out there and the dedication many of the blogs I subscribe to are putting forth. Specifically, I urge you to visit Kim Cofino's Blog. We actually met when I joined Clay Burell's 1001 Flat World Tales Project. Interest in this is taking off and I am happy to one of the first few teachers taking part of this. I kind of get that feeling about this project that it will develop into something really big and memorable. Needless to say, cheers Clay, way to pull this all together and provide so many of us with this opportunity. I have already been contacted by Terry Smith in Missouri to get our kids together and collaborating and I look forward to working with his kids as well. There is just so much good stuff going on out there with teachers and the Web 2.0 stuff that it is hard to keep up with, synthesize, digest, reflect on, etc.

Back to Kim for a second, she has also taken it upon herself get a wiki going for Middle School teachers and tech. facilitators to post projects and ideas they have for integrating technology into their respective curriculum. Check out Tech in the Middle here and throw your ideas into the mix if you haven't already. Even though I am the Elementary Tech Facilitator I think I will throw some ideas in there that can easily be adapted to the middle grades setting. Besides, I was a middle school teacher for 5 years before moving to the tech world. This is just up and running and once again, thanks to having feeds to all these incredible ideas has led me in many different directions in the last week alone.

My brain ache subsided over the weekend as I kind of steered away from the computer and focused on playing like a kid with my two kids. It gave me time to reflect on the massive amount of information I looked over last week and enabled me to focus a bit. The respite was needed and Aidan (my 3.5 year old) and I had a blast at the pool and coloring his Power Ranger coloring books-he is getting good at staying in the lines. Randomly bringing me to this revelation while coloring in a motor cycle with him. In coloring books we value staying "in the lines" yet when it comes to education, we are now encouraging our kids to scribble outside of the lines, to explore, to think out side of the box, to ask difficult answers and then come up with the solutions. Essentially as Educators if we are embracing these new technologies into our curriculum and classrooms then aren't we also "coloring" outside of the lines? Toward the end of one coloring session, Aidan was kind of over it and started to scribble, I put down my marker, watched, and smiled. Coloring outside of the lines suddenly seemed more rewarding as staying confined within them.

After much consideration, hesitation, and some anxiety...

Ok, I’ve finally embarked on the start of what I hope will be beginning of an illustrious blog. Alright, I’ll settle for hopefully being somewhat interesting to read. While this platform will serve to illuminate my teaching experiences as an Elementary School Technology Facilitator at the Carol Morgan School in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. it has been lately through reading of many blogs that I have realized that feel like I know less now about teaching and education than I did when I started teaching middle school science 5 years ago. Specifically, lately I have been swept up in the many conversations and blogs covering the emerging technologies and pedagogy surrounding Web 2.0. I feel like right now we are on the cusp of an incredible events in education and culture that will forever serve to shape our futures and our students’ futures as well. Needless to say, at times I find myself overwhelmed, intimidated and at utterly confused by what I know, what I thought I knew and how much I still have little knowledge about. Anyway, it is late so check in for my rantings, ravings, admissions, confessions, the occasional life blog and or surf/kitesurf entry. Somehow it all fits together…well at least in physics right?