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On the Blog Again… February 2, 2008

Posted by Joselyn Todd in Educational Technology, Professional Development.
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It has been some time since I have last blogged as I presented at the Florida Ed Tech Conference in Orlando with a fellow MidLink Editor, Karen Kliegman. Our session was initially Brenda Dyck’s brainstorm but when she could not attend the meeting, Karen came to the rescue as did I. Our session was an outstanding success by all accounts as we tried to focus on the reality of the implementation of Web 2.0 tools to support dynamic curriculum content. We presented from a Wiki that you may want to check out as it includes many references to tools as well as the projects we discussed: http://fetcrazzle.pbwiki.com/. You should listen to the interesting part of the presentation where there is a virtual presentation of Brenda Dyck’s Place Based Storytelling Project. It is a wonderfully deigned project that integrates mapping with storytelling.I attended numerous sessions at FETC that were of interest to me as a science teacher: use of Google Earth and Google maps as science curriculum tools, gaming as a means to bring science topics to life, virtual world use for professional development, and social networking platforms as a means to develop learning communities.

I walked away from the conference with many thoughts due to conversations I had with old friends and new friends at the meeting.

1. There is no doubt that there is a plethora of tools that can bring learning alive for both adult learners, teachers, and students, but the missing link remains how one seamlessly supports valuable content with these tools.

2. Approximately 10,000 educators were at the mtg. I have to believe that nearly every one of them wants to invigorate their teaching practice with new technologies offered via the internet. How do we meet the needs of these risk taking educators who want to learn. They need time. They need someone to meet them where they are regarding their proficiency with technology. They need someone to show them how, no matter what their meager resources, that they can infuse their teaching practice with Web 2.0.

3. I am starting to believe that we may be approaching a critical mass of ed tech gurus and ed tech practitioners that can take it to a new level. Perhaps it will take a grassroots effort to inform communities, school administrations, school boards, state legislatures, etc. of the urgency of make radical changes to our current education system. It will likely take public and private entities to make these changes. The shareholders need to be as educated as the teachers in terms of digital literacy and fluency among our k-12 students – the future workforce.

Finally, as we have watched and listened to the political analysts as Super Tuesday approaches (and then will surely pass), it comes of no surprise to me that the leading candidates have at least recognized the power of the Internet to reach their constituencies. In large part this has been driven by the need to raise money for their venture. What is sad to me is that we have heard plenty about health care, the war in Iraq, national security, and the domestic economy- but we have heard little about education even though the candidates are using technology to further their hopes and dreams. We can only hope that soon we will be talking about national education reform along side of the need for changes in our health care system and other.

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A Model Web 2.0 Collaborative Project for Social Studies! August 30, 2007

Posted by Joselyn Todd in Educational Technology, Professional Development.
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This morning I continue my journey through the wonderful resources in the current issue of Midlink Magazine. One of the projects, On The Trail Of The First People was created by Karen Kliegman, a library media and ed tech specialist from Searingtown School, Albertson, NY (she is also an adjunct professor at Long Island University, NY).   This project really stands out as On The Trail Of The First People is a Web 2.0 project that is aimed for use in a social studies unit in a 4th or 5th grade classroom focused on indigenous people. The project begins in October, 2007 so sign up now! In terms of content, the project is a standards based project that asks students to become geographically and culturally aware of the indigenous people that they are studying. Most importantly, it asks for students to relate how the geographic attributes of the area- its climate, natural resources, and natural habitat have influenced the culture of the tribe.

How does a teacher implement this project in the classroom? Not to worry! Karen has provided a very detailed guide regarding how to sign up and implement the project. It is a model Web 2.0 project as Karen has integrated blogs or wikis into the project as well as social mapping and mind mapping tools. The social mapping tool, Community Walk, is used to create a geographic awareness of the location of the indigenous people of interest. Following brainstorming using a mind mapping tool and research using information literacy skills, the tribe location(s) and important geographic points would be placed on the map using the project Community Walk. Points on the map can be annotated with pictures, photos, and comments. A class wiki would be used for group research, brainstorming, project development, etc. Student blogs could be used to document individual thoughts about the project and their independent contributions. The class wiki would be collaborative in that any other teacher/classroom could contribute to it. Even more outstanding, by signing up for the project, Karen has set up a project wiki for the teachers that are involved!

Integral to the project is its collaborative spirit where students are brainstorming, researching, mapping, and creating final research products such as short movies or a Slideshare (published PowerPoint) for others who are involved in the project to see, learn from, comment on, etc. There is so much potential regarding this project. First, I am hopeful that a teacher with a large number students from indigenous tribe(s) contributes to the project. This would be invaluable to all of the other collaborating teachers/classrooms. I am also hopeful that other teachers will guide their students to use and integrate audio and/or video of the children/people of the indigenous tribe(s) of interest. The power of the human voice is amazing, and culturally, storytelling has played a large role within indigenous people in the Americas and worldwide.

I am hoping to get Karen interviewed/ “podcasted” soon. Meanwhile, shoot her an e-mail if you are a upper elementary teacher who enjoys social studies and wants to embark upon a powerful, highly motivational professional learning experience while guiding her students through a creative, innovative Web 2.0 learning opportunity! Like all of the editors from Midlink, I am sure Karen would help guide you through this project using the materials she has created and the teacher wiki.

Professional Development- IT Gurus Unite! June 15, 2007

Posted by Joselyn Todd in Educational Technology, Professional Development.
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I’ve been alternating a bit between providing practical how-to’s for the K-12 classroom versus providing just some more global thoughts about K-12 instructional technology. I think this is OK as I am constantly learning new tools and wanting to share that information while also thinking very seriously about some of the challenges and opportunities afforded by Web 2.0 in K-12 classrooms.

This morning I am going to blog a bit about my feelings regarding ed tech professional development in K-12 environments. There seems to be no consensus among the experts in K-12 ed tech regarding what is the best model for providing PD to K-12 faculty. Given this fact, I feel fairly safe in blogging about this.

First and foremost, I’ve come to the conclusion that effective PD has to be tailored to each individual school’s “situation”. That is, we need knowledgeable and strategic instructional technology gurus (term used loosely) in each school so that a school’s faculty can be provided PD that is relevant to their own ed tech limitations and opportunities. Our IT gurus in a perfect world could speak the language of IT and then be able to translate this effectively in layman’s language. I think that if there is anything that will “turn a teacher off” to tech, it is a guru who speaks of XML, AJAX, firewire ports, etc. while what is really needed is someone who will speak in plain English regarding what time the computer lab could be scheduled for.

Another thought. It is so important that a school has a culture of positive energy regarding risk taking, innovation, and discovery. Why? Because even in the best of situations- teachers that are in 1:1 computing environments with whiteboards, data projectors, wireless Internet, etc., SUPPORT is required most obviously in the way of TIME. Our students are developing logarithmically in their use of technology; meanwhile, most adults are in their linear phase at best. As an IT guru, one would hope to get as many teachers as possible on a steep, linear developmental path that is personally rewarding. Why personally rewarding? Because so many teachers give so much and are stretched to such limits that it has to be personally rewarding to make it worth the extra time and effort to learn technology and how to implement it in the classroom.

In a positive culture such as this, ideally one would not get hung up on high stakes testing, lack of the best computers, and crowded classrooms (these battles have to be waged on another front, perhaps a different post). We have to focus on the one computer that teachers do have in their classrooms and then guide them regarding how to use it with their students to bring relevant learning to their students’ lives. Let’s get the focus off of what we don’t have and focus on what we do as the prior has not gotten us anywhere in terms of providing relevant learning opportunities for children. (I focus on the word relevant as I can hardly imagine what it must be like for a student to use their wired desktop at home to Skype and IM to friends while simultaneously doing homework and adding items to their MySpace page only to go to school the following day and sit with a 5 year old textbook and a notebook with lined paper. No wonder why we have so many children acting out in the classroom. Again, this is topic for another blog post.)

Administration… We must get our administrators “on board” or off the ship. Yes, radical. Get them blogging instead of spending the school’s money on postage for monthly newsletters. If they will not blog, find someone who will blog at the school and see if you can get administrators to agree on a monthly podcast to the community. IT gurus, ask to meet weekly with administrators in strategic positions and give them private lessons on how to use a wiki, blogs, or even just how to spice up the signature on their e-mails. Maybe help them create a slideshow of pictures taken at a school event. I have faith that those who experience the power of Web 2.0 will not turn back but will instead move forward. I think that eyes opened to a world of tools that make life fun, creative, and in many cases easier will have a new outlook on what they must do to create policy, to find funding, and to hire staff to effectively lead their schools to become 21st Century Learning models. Administrators that are recognized by their colleagues for their own Web 2.0 prowess will be empowered and will be more likely to support ed tech in their schools. Administrators who will not get “on board” regarding moving their schools toward 21st Century Learning models need to be let go. In many ways, these administrators are far worse than incompetent teachers, because in this case, administrators hold the keys to the tools that empower those who are changing lives on a daily basis- teachers.

One last thought…at least for this morning… in this blog post. IT gurus…abandon the after school model of delivering PD to teachers. They are TIRED. They need to go home and take care of themselves and their families and so do you! Teach the staff how to use their iPods as a personal on-demand PD resource. Make it your mission to go to every teacher’s classroom and observe them. Find your risk takers and help them to integrate a Web 2.0 tool into a unit or lesson that they are already teaching. Next, have them present for 10 minutes at a faculty meeting. You have to have lit matches to get a fire burning! State legislatures…find the money to provide incentives to teachers that will attend a week long 21st Century PD summer institute. Get your best IT gurus from around the state to identify key teachers at this institute and have these key teachers act as mentors and social networking hubs for other teachers. Provide them incentives to do so. Create a state social network of teachers that are life long learners committed to supporting each other in a journey to learn new technologies to bring digital literacy and relevant learning to their lives and their students’ lives.

All of this is easier said than done. But WE HAVE TO START SOMEWHERE. This morning I reiterate what I feel most passionately about, “Let’s get the focus off of what we don’t have and focus on what we do as the prior has not gotten us anywhere in terms of providing relevant learning opportunities for children.” After all, connecting with kids and changing lives- this really is the bottom line.

What do you think? Do you disagree? Have something to add? Let’s get a conversation going.