Saturday, August 30, 2008

Fresh Faces, Fresh Ideas

This summer, one of the professional development classes that we offered was on Web 2.0 tools. It was a face-to-face version of The Power of Web 2.0 Tools. One of the teachers that participated has already put into place a class blog. We have only had three weeks of school at this point but what her students have done with the blog is quite amazing.

She simply requires the students to comment on at least one of her blog posts, post an article themselves - stick to science!, and comment on one of their classmates' blogs each month. One of the things I really like about what she is doing is that she is modeling for her students what she wants. Take a look at Science in Our Lives and read some of her posts.

I guess it is no wonder that she is getting student posts like this one: What Will the Future Be Like? Students are reading information about different science concepts as applied to the world and sharing what they find. Another post I read was Baggy Eyes . . . Why Does It Happen? The teacher is getting the kids to "wonder" about the applications of science in their world and then follow-up that wondering with research. They are linking to information found on the Internet. No doubt, as they go along, the students will get even better at evaluating the Internet sources they find and thinking critically about the information.

Having used a class blog for about five years now, I am impressed with what this teacher, new to the web 2.0 scene, is doing. She's not afraid to try things with her students. She's not afraid to give a structure and then let the students take off. This teacher is a fresh face with fresh ideas in my personal learning network.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Power of Web 2.0 Tools: A 21st Century Learning Experience

Next week, we will be launching our version of K12 learning 2.0. Shelley Paul gave me permission to use her course as a basis and tweak and change to create a 1 PLU version of the course. It is meant not to replace that course but as a 1 PLU option for those who might not feel they have the time to dedicate to a 3 PLU course. The "thinks" as they are called in this course are chunked into modules. There are four required modules. After completing the required modules, participants choose two other modules to complete for their PLU credit. Of course, all modules are visible so participants can explore further in any of the modules.

We had a good number of teachers who began the K12 learning course but for various reasons, couldn't finish it. One issue was that during the school year it was hard for them to have enough time in the week to dedicate to it. This need motivated me to work on a 1 PLU version. I felt like chunking the information into modules made sense and might help teachers not feel so overwhelmed.

My goal is to have everything available to the teachers as of day 1 of the course so they can work at their own pace. We have spent a good bit of time working with teachers on differentiating for students. I felt it was a necessity for us to find ways to differentiate for teachers in our professional development offerings. This "time" issue is one way we can differentiate.

Additionally, we have built in a "choice" component. There are four required modules in the course: Intro to Web 2.0, RSS, Blogging and Creative Commons. We felt these were foundational for everything else. Teachers will choose two other modules to work through: Wikis, Image Sharing, Social Bookmarking, Online Learning, Podcasting and Productivity with Google. Of course, teachers are always welcome to explore some of the other modules as well.

We will soon find out if this concept works out in practicality like it does on paper. Just another way we are trying to bring more teachers along with web 2.0.

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Let's Get Disruptive

My husband likes to read a lot. He brought me an article from one of his Forbes magazines entitled “How to Change the Way Kids Learn.” The fact that he thought of me when he read that title is flattering, in my opinion, so I delved into it.

Computers have failed to improve education. That’s because no one’s gotten disruptive with technology.

This intrigued me further. Getting disruptive with technology? I’m not sure what that means but it sounds cool! I read on.

The authors state that U.S. public schools struggle to improve because they aren’t motivating the children. Ok, I see children in my classroom everyday that force me to inevitably come back to one question: why aren’t they motivated? Just today I had a student tell me in not so many words that he wanted to do the minimum, just what he can get by with. Do educators condition students in a way that encourages this notion of “just getting by?” Where did the natural curiosity and thirst for learning go? Didn’t they have it when they were 2 or 3 or 4?

If the goal is to educate all students so they have an all-American shot at realizing their dreams, we must find a way to disrupt the monolithic classroom and move toward a student-centric model.

I will admit that I proceeded to look up monolithic to make sure I understood the message. Monolithic means cut out of one stone, characterized by total uniformity and rigidity. This is a business magazine with an article that indicates the typical American classroom is monolithic, rigid and totally standardized. As an educator, I took that to heart. For all of the information on differentiation, learning styles, brain-based strategies, etc., the business world still sees our classrooms as inflexible and ineffective.

The way to implement an innovation so it will transform an organization is to implement it disruptively.

One of my goals this year is to revise the curriculum for 6th grade Language Arts so that a student-centered approach emanates from the curriculum map and other files that communicate standards. That means getting disruptive with some of the curriculum pieces. That means moving further toward an open-content type curriculum as opposed to a text-driven curriculum. Blogs, wikis, skype, wiziQ, moodle, etc., all have the potential of transformation if we get "disruptive" with them. My students will be putting together curriculum resources through our class wiki. I want the students to create resources for curriculum. How will students develop creativity without being given opportunities to create?

For now, I am still pondering, "What does 'getting disruptive' really look like?"

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