Friday, July 25, 2014

Are Kindergartners Old Enough to Blog?

Last Fall a number of teachers from my school attended a workshop on blogging with Sharon Davison, a Kindergarten teacher at the Allen Brook School in Williston, VT. We came away from her presentation convinced that we wanted our students blogging as well and soon all our third graders had their own active blogs. Not only did Sharon offer compelling reasons to blog with young students, she stepped us through how to set up the blogs and communicate with families so that they became completely comfortable having their children's writing online. Here is the slide show Saron used during her presentation and here is an an interview with Sharon about blogging with her students. Take a look. What do you think about students having blogs, especially young students? Can you think of any compelling reasons why you might want to have your own blog, or have your students blog?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

What do you know about blogs?

Watch this short video about Blogs from Common Craft Videos

Flickr Photo by DonkeyHotey

What are the pros and cons of blogs for educators and students? How are they different from other Web sites? Do you have a personal or classroom blog? Have your students used blogs? For what purpose? Is there a blog you read? Tell us about it.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Think About It - Studio Learning

I've become more and more intrigued about using digital tools to support the model of studio based learning environment described by John Seely Brown.     I have been pondering upon the question: 
What learning should be public?  What do we mean by "public"?  Does the answer to these questions change for different age group of children?  For adults?  What do we gain from this approach?  What do we risk losing? How can digital tools support the type of learning environment described here?

If you are interested in hearing more from John Seely Brown, check out my collection of John Seely Brown links

Monday, July 23, 2012

Think About It--Challenging Education Paradigms

This video came to my attention last year, and features one of my favorite people: Sir Ken Robinson.  He’s a “rock star” in the field of education and lectures on the importance of fostering creativity and innovation in the young people we service.  He talks about Education (the system) from a historical perspective and is critical of what (some) teachers offer and what our kids really need (if your interested, there's more on this subject in a really fantastic TED Talk from 2006).

The clip I've chosen is a portion of a speech he gave in 2008 upon receiving the Benjamin Franklin Medal from the Royal Society of Arts in London.  This selection is particularly interesting to me because the folks at the RSA animated the content with high-speed whiteboard doodles--a feat of creativity on it’s own that isn’t simply flashy, but accentuates message within the speech.   In the spirit of differentiation, I’m also providing a transcript of the video for those of you who’d prefer to read it.  It may also come in handy if you decide to pull direct quotes.  

After viewing the clip, please answer the following questions by replying to this post.  

  1. In the video, Sir Ken Robinson asserts that “most great learning happens in groups,” and that “collaboration is the stuff of growth.”  What do you think about these statements?  
  2. Have you used (or would you use) an Google tools that allow for collaboration between students?  Please list some of the tools and your reasoning for including them.  Remember, even if you’ve never used Google tools with kids, you’ve at least sampled a few that you might use in the future.  You can discuss that instead.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Think About It - Seven (+1) Survival Skills for Student Success

Tony Wagner has written and spoken extensively about the direction he believes our schools should be going. He is currently a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and recently delivered this presentation in Chiang Mai, Thiland, during which he highlights some of the key points from his last two books, Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change The World, and The Global Achievement Gap.

His lecture starts around 5 minutes into this video and ends around 34 minutes. A question and answer session follows his lecture and runs from around 34 minutes to 48 minutes. 

When we are asked to watch a video like this one, with a wide variety of ideas and opinions being pushed at us very rapidly, it’s a natural tendency to grab onto an idea or two that support something we already believe. INSTEAD OF DOING THAT, pick an idea or an opinion presented by this speaker that makes you feel somewhat uncomfortable and try to examine why. What is there about that idea or point of view that bothers you and what does that say about your beliefs about education?

During the first 12 minutes of his presentation Mr. Wagner lists the seven survival skills he believes our students will need to be successful after they graduate. For each of these skills he explains why the design of our schools makes it difficult for students to master these skills; we fail to teach critical thinking because schools care more about getting the right answers than asking intelligent questions, teachers fail to model collaboration because they work in isolation; we don’t teach students to be adaptable to changing conditions because schools follow prescribed patterns, etc. Can you suggest a teaching strategy, perhaps supported by Google applications or other technology tools that might help you overcome one or more of these barriers? For example, how could you use online tools to improve your collaboration with other educators and allow your students to collaborate with their peers?

Wagner’s research since the world-wide economic meltdown has led him to believe that an additional survival skill needs to be added to his list - innovation. He believes that increasing our students’ capacity to innovate is crucial if our students are to be successful. He suggests five areas where schools need to make fundamental changes if were want to nurture creativity and innovation:
    • Promote collaboration over individual achievement
    • Focus on multidisciplinary/problem based learning over specialization 
    • Encourage trial and error learning over risk avoidance
    • Stress creation over consumption
    • Look for intrinsic rather than extrinsic motivators
Do you see the need to change the focus in your classroom in any of these areas?  What will need to change for this to happen? Do you see educational technology playing a role?

Wagner states that technology has an important role in our schools but he also believes it comes with some serious drawbacks. Do you share his concerns about our students not knowing how to turn off their devices so they can strengthen their “muscles of concentration?” What can we do in our schools to help overcome this problem? 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Think About It - What Does it Mean to be Literate in a Digital World?

This is a question I have been asking myself and others for some time, particularly with the constant changes in how we communicate, create and access information online. In addition, I see this question relevant to Matt Allen’s previous post Reframe Your Thinking  when he asks, How has the digital age changed the learner? The learning? Our role as educators?  

How is the way we approach literacy in school keeping up with what it means to be literate in a world where information is no longer just printed text on paper? Are students using digital literacies to develop understanding, engage in their learning, and share their knowledge with others?
Steve Covello outlines the subdisciplines of the digital literacies as information literacy, computer literacy, media literacy, communication literacy, visual literacy, technology literacy. Since his list in 2010, I would add the newer domain of social media (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc...) To be literate in today’s world is to be able to access online information, comprehend it at high levels, critically evaluate information as to it’s reliability and credibility, as well as create, collaborate, communicate, curate and publish all within the subdisciplines of digital literacy.
In the past many of these disciplines have been in the purview of the Librarian/Media Specialist  or Technology Class where students learn about online research, created media products and learn basic technology skills. The new digital literacy skills are “literacy skills” and must be embedded into classroom curriculum and literacy instruction. “Review of research on reading comprehension concludes that the Internet requires additional comprehension skills beyond those required for reading traditional print texts (RAND Reading Study Group, 2002).” Yet, when we teach reading and writing the focus is on text based materials. While traditional reading and writing skills are the foundation for being a literate person we need to expand teaching of traditional literacy skills to include the new digital literacies.
I believe this is an opportunity to transform teaching and learning as we align curriculum to the Common Core to embrace the digital learning that is embedded into and expected from the Common Core State Standards.  As we adjust our curriculum to meet the new standards, we should be looking for ways to shift traditional text based activities to digital learning opportunities that are more relevant to today's learners.
Listen to Glynda Hull from University of California Berkeley talk about this opportunity and review the Google Presentation created by Maggie Eaton, Middle School LA teacher/Curriculum Leader and myself. As you listen to Glynda and go through the slideshow consider how you might begin to embrace the new literacies and provide digital learning opportunities for your students.

  • How can you learn more about what it means to be literate in a digital world?
  • What ideas do you have for leveraging technology for student learning as you look at the new CCSS in addressing literacy?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Think About it -- Reframe Your Thinking

"Students have no attention span." "All they do is play video games and listen to their iPods." "They spend too much time on the Internet." "They don't know how to socialize without Facebook." "They can't even hold a conversation; they sit next to each other and text." "They don't know how to research, all they do is Google their question." "Technology is fine, but kids still need to know how to..."

Any of these quotes sound familiar? Have you uttered some of them yourself?

The following video was produced by the MacArthur Foundation and features John Seely Brown, Nichole PinkardDiana RhotenMimi ItoKatie Salen, and Henry Jenkins--six of today's leading voices in technology in education reform. I have chosen it to get you to think about the conceptions you have regarding kids and their use of technology.

After watching the video, share your thoughts about its message (new insight, disagreements, etc). If you have your own thoughts, run with them. For those who would like a bit more guidance, here are some questions for you to consider: Are kids who have grown up digital motivated by the same things that drove us to learn? Can technology provide the elements of autonomy, mastery, and purpose that Pink identifies as keys to motivation? How has the digital age changed the learner? The learning? Our role as educators? 

Below is a Scribd widget that gives you the latest John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Reports on Digital Media and Learning. In addition to sharing some valuable information, this widget can be seen as another example of how technology has made sharing information more efficient for everyone. (I guess that's why they call it the Information Age.)