Wednesday, January 28, 2009

It is Not Okay

Today I stumbled upon a Fischbowl post from 2007 that caught my attention. Is It Okay To Be A Technologically Illiterate Teacher? I say in our flat world…NO!

So, as a leader of technology in my district, it makes me think about my role in all this. When a discussion came up at our district technology meeting about adopting the NETS Standards for Teachers, I balked. The district needs to commit the time and money to train its teachers, I argued. It wouldn't be fair otherwise. Most everyone agreed. Three years have passed and the issue has not resurfaced.

I also used to teach math, as the blogger noted about himself, and used to hear parents state matter-of-factly, "I'm not a math person." And now I even hear students say, "I'm not a computer person." How ridiculous are those statements! Can you imagine if I said that I'm not a writing person (even though some might agree with me)?

As chief negotiator for our district, I have been spending a lot of time on RIF language these days. 'Last one in, first one out' has been our guiding principle. It does seem like the fair way to do it. But, the potential is there for one or more of our 'barges' to bump our 'speed boats' out of the way. I hope it doesn't come down to that. We obviously need the latter in order to win the race.

In today's world, it is not okay to be technologically illiterate. State-of-the-art computers in schools are not enough. Having an airplane in a backyard is of no use unless someone can pilot it. All of our teachers must embrace technology in education. Maybe it's time to revisit adopting those ISTE standards.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Wikis in Education

I stood outside our high school chatting with Cathy Higgins, New Hampshire's State Educational Technology Director, and listened to her rave about wikis. I had heard the term, but had no clue how they worked. Here it is two years later, and for the first time I'm finally using one for Teaching and Learning in a Networked Classroom.

Wikis are a powerful educational Web 2.0 tool. Not only can students and teachers create websites to share with others; wikis allow the users to collaborate with others to create the website. All the while the pages can be edited and compared with previous versions. Creators can use wetpaint (age limit 13 years old), pbwikis, or wikispaces to create accounts. Ad-free wikis are a bonus for educators. Wikis can be used for tracking projects (trac), or as a personal notebook (Tiddlywiki). There are classroom wikis and group project wikis. Some wikis tend to be content specific. For example, the anatowiki helps us learn anatomy and writeboard is for writers. Educators can use wikis to collaborate on writing curriculum. Fortunately, there is a lot of information on wikis on the Web.

A teacher came to me a few weeks ago with questions about a PowerPoint that she was going to assign her students on the Revolutionary War. "How about have them make a wiki?" I asked (of course, she had never even heard the term before). She listened as I muddled my way describing what they are and how they work. Of course, initially I imagined her students collaborating to create this website. But at time passed, I thought about how cool it would be to have students from England collaborating with New Englanders. Now that would provide an interesting perspective.

Our technology director set up a wiki for our district. We have a meeting on Wednesday, at which time he will be instructing our technology mentors on how to use it. I'm looking forward to comparing it with the one we use in this course and to get our teachers using them.

Hopefully the next time someone strongly suggests that I try out an exciting Web 2.0 tool, it won't take me two years to get on board.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Back to No Lines...No Waiting

What an experience it was! Unlike the thousands of Inauguration ticket holders behind us who never got in, my son and I gained entrance to the Mall with our tickets. I don't think I've ever spent so much time standing in one place waiting for a line to move (thank goodness for my son's height and creativity). After the Inauguration, we seemed to walk forever, but we ended in a great place to view the parade, which was a bit of a disappointment--way too much time between performers. We did see the presidential limo, the Bidens, and some high school bands, but 4 hrs. later we decided to call it quits (chilly!). Hopefully the DC folks learned something about crowd control--there's no such thing as too much signage.
On a brighter side, it was such an exhilarating feeling to watch and listen to our new President take his oath of office. Witnessing such an historical event and being in DC for a few days was well worth using two personal days from work.
The food served at the various receptions around the city was excellent (NEA sure knows how to feed folks!). The Friends of Hillary luncheon at her Senate office was a highlight. Former President Bill Clinton and the now Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as well as other dignitaries, were in attendance. Later in the day, NH's delegation (Gov Lynch, Senators Shaheen and Gregg, etc.) were present at an Open House at the historical Willard Intercontinental Washington, the same hotel where Obama would spend his last evening prior to becoming our 44th president. I felt so proud to be a native of our Granite State. After a night of dancing into the wee hours, I boarded a plane for NH. One more thing checked off the 'bucket list'...and now it's back to no waiting.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Media Sharing: Give it a Shot

Two of my students wanted to use my new Flip camera; would I allow them to make a music video? Of course! I typed in my credit card number for an iTune's 'Shut Up and Let Me Go' and soon thereafter the Ting Tings had some serious competition. At this point, the video has been shared with my class, a colleague, and an administrator. It is so good that I plan to post it on the Web (I'll let you know when I do).
So, the question that I must raise when watching the concert videos (btw...the young lady singing O Holy Night! was phenomenal) relates to copyright. My understanding is that we cannot post footage from a concert because of music copyright laws. It seems ridiculous, but that is what we are told. And then of course we have the paranoid parents and administrators.
I have used tools such as Flickr and Shutterfly, but only to access photos. I have many to share from my mother's 90th birthday party; I need to use these tools to share the event.
Sharing media is so fun and there are so many ways to do it. Voice Thread allows many users to get involved--a very cool option. Animoto is another fun tool. There are many to try. Give It a Shot!

Social Bookmarking: Tag. You're It!

It's all about the tagging. Bookmarking is a 'social service' designed to allow the user to access more and more websites while categorizing the information with tags. They are able to get the information anywhere, anytime. Tags are used for photos and websites; the keywords sort and classify the information. The 'how to' video by Chris Betcher not only helped me understand social bookmarking; it makes me realize how important it is to contribute to the web. I downloaded jing and watched my screen come alive. Now that is an incredible tool! I'd like to make a few of those 'how to' videos myself. It would be a great way to give back.
I can see why it's important to tag well. It reminds me of the students who save their work with crazy names and then can never locate the files.
It is no wonder that patterns start to emerge and connections are made between tags (case in point: I signed up for Facebook. Within two days a girl I used to babysit in California in 1974 friended me)! The connectedness of everything is incredible.
The tag clouds make a strong point. It will be interesting to see a tag cloud of Obama's Inaugural address. I'm guessing 'economic' might show up quite a bit. Or how about 'hope?'
So, I have a delicious acct and some bookmarks. It seems as if I'm always looking for something. Hopefully Delicious and tagging will help. And speaking of tagging, I used Wordle this past summer. It was so fun to see the patterns emerge. Tag. You're It.

RSS Feeds...Special Delivery

One only needs to read posts by jutecht to understand the power of RSS feeds (I'm not sure what isn't fed to him). With RSS, you pick what you want to know and gets delivered to your doorstep, so to speak. This concept is very new to me. It seems as if too much stuff can come your way though. For example, in the tutorial, is this to say that 29,069 feeds on global warming will come my way? I think I'm missing something.
The BEST news I've heard can select a section of the newspaper and RSS it. My husband cannot let go of newspapers (hundreds reside in my house...and I'm not kidding!). He cannot part with his Manchester Union Leader. He buys them every day and they pile up for the day (which never comes) when he'll open them. Heaven forbid that I throw one in the woodstove prematurely. I think the reason he buys it daily is for the Obituary section. A good birthday gift...RSS just that section to him.
The more I use iGoogle and RSS feeds, the more comfortable I will get. Right now, I see it as getting a packet of information Special Delivery. My next challenge is to sort the mail. What is junk and what is a good read...that is what I need to figure out.

Leavin' the Computer At Home

What an exciting few days I have ahead! I fly out tomorrow and arrive in DC late afternoon. I will attend the NEA reception and then head into the city. Monday morning I will be attending the Friends of Hillary Brunch (a highlight of the weekend) and then a Salute to NH reception in the afternoon. On Tuesday, it's the Inauguration, the Inaugural Parade, and then the Inaugural Ball.
I've decided to leave my computer at home. This will be the first time in years that I've been away from it for this long. But, it will do me good (my carpal tunnel needs a break!). I'll be back on Wednesday.

Blogs...Thinking Out Loud

Having read numerous blogs over the past few weeks, I see it as a way to express oneself while allowing many folks, familiar and unfamiliar, to read one's inner thoughts. It is also a way to share experiences and knowledge. Some blogs are very personal; others are informative; others just plain entertaining. Blogs also allow the reader and the writer to share their work or passion. I'm only beginning to understand the power of these as an educator. I particularly like The Fischbowl.
Students blog in my school in their LA classes, but only with other students in my school. There is that fear factor of the unknown that many public schools experience. I guess that needs to change.
When my grown son starting writing a blog on his DC experiences, I wondered if he were sharing too much (even though I love reading it!). It's great that my google reader lets me know when he has a new post. I'm lovin' these Web 2.0 tools.
Classroom 2.0 is the newest blog I have added to my reader. It looks like a powerful social tool, but I can see that it also is one of those tools that must be taken slowly or otherwise one could become overwhelmed.
Blogging is an ongoing process with entries made regularly. It can be a time consuming activity (as a reader and a writer), but well worth the time and effort.
Blogging is a sign of the times. However, I can't help but wonder how folks that are very private will handle the Collaboration Age. I think they're just going to have to get used to thinking out loud, listening to others think out loud...or just stay in their cave.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Connectivism: Learning is Messy and Chaotic

I had no idea there was so much to learn about learning. One thing for certain: Learning and I have something in common--messy and chaotic! While reading Siemen's Knowing Knowledge chapter on the principles of connectivism, I couldn't help but think how difficult it was recently to argue that our 'sage on the stage' has to change. According to the history teacher who teaches 2 rooms down the hall, all this technology stuff is "fluff." He needs to teach about Vikings and castles, and technology oftentimes takes too much time away from his curriculum. He is all about 'filling the container' with knowledge. And he is not alone; the math teacher agreed! A teacher of technology, like myself, finds it more difficult to argue against connectivism. Surely things change every day. Just when I figure something out, it has changed. I was really good at using FrontPage and then I had to switch to Dreamweaver. Just when I was comfortable using the Grab utility, I discover Jing. It's difficult to keep up with the right tools for the time. Knowledge is indeed dynamic. My challenge is how to best convey to my colleagues the concept that knowledge is a product and a process.

Given the amount of information that is out there, we need to streamline it to be efficient and effective; my first attempt at google reader had so much 'stuff' it was a total turnoff... overwhelming. Now, I can add feeds slowly; ones that are manageable. And when I look at the mess and chaos around me, I'll think about learning, and decide that I am in good company.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The More I Read, the More I Don't Know

Have you ever experienced that feeling of saturation and uncertainty? I'm feelin' it! I used to be so sure of my beliefs. I knew what to teach and how to do it effectively. Now my confidence is waning. I'm not sure if I'm getting brainwashed with all this information or if School 2.0 ("community-based next generation schools") is really on the horizon. It all started with reading Friedmann's The World is Flat. After all, he was quite believable. Then it was a couple summer courses and a fall technology conference touting Web 2.0.--fun tools for sure. And that Skype call from Bangkok was very convincing as well (except for maybe the thought of allowing students to be FaceBook users in school; my God...I just opened a FaceBook account and it is all consuming!). So then tonight I read How Do We Transform Our Schools. I think it put me over the edge (maybe 'cause it made so much sense or because it's late and I should be sleeping?). I'm torn between my old school values and my love of technology. What is the correlation between learning and fun? Do they always have to go together? Where are we going with computer-based learning? Hopefully during the upcoming weeks I will have a better understanding of how our schools need to transform and how best to incorporate technology into instruction (so it's not an add-on) to truly improve student learning. And I will continue to read, read, read and accept the fact that there will always be so much that I don't know.