Muddling through the blogosphere

May 30, 2010
by blogwalker

Project Tomorrow Releases National Findings: Creating & Unleashing the Future

I’m listening as I write to Project Tomorrow‘s (a.k.a. NetDay)  Unleashing the Future: Educators “Speak Up” about the Use of Emerging Technologies for Learning podcast.  Speak Up 2009 National Findings address two groups:

I’m guessing few will be surprised by the student findings, which are organized by three essential elements:

  • Essential Element 1: Social-based learningStudents want to leverage emerging communications and collaboration tools to create and personalize networks of experts to inform their education process.
  • Essential Element 2: Un-tethered learningStudents envision technology-enabled learning experiences that transcend the classroom walls and are not limited by resource constraints, traditional funding streams, geography, community assets or even teacher knowledge or skills.
  • Essential Element 3: Digitally-rich learning experiences Students see the use of relevancy-based digital tools, content and resources as a key to driving learning productivity, not just about engaging students in learning.

The educators’ “Speak Up” includes survey results from “aspiring teachers” as well as in-service teachers and administrators.  The number one skill aspiring teachers are being taught in their methods course is how to use word processing, spreadsheet and database tools. But when asked what would best prepare them to teach in a 21st century classroom, the college students suggested better training in current technology:

  • learning how to use technology to differentiate instruction for students (75 percent)
  • incorporating digital resources in a lesson (68 percent)
  • locating and using electronic teaching aides (67 percent)
  • creating and utilizing video or podcasts within a lesson (57 percent)
  • and  using electronic productivity tools (57 percent).

Julie Evans, chief executive officer of Project Tomorrow, shares that

Students are no longer waiting for policy changes within their schools, or from Washington, D.C. …Students want their voices heard by those making education policies, but we are now seeing them move beyond their attempts to share their needs with adults. They are taking the technology they have grown up with and using it to help them learn—inside and outside of the classroom.”

I’ll wrap up this post with a reminder from one of my favorite “down under” bloggers, Sujokat: “Social Media: Stop acting like it is going to go away.”

May 11, 2010
by blogwalker

Students as Producers of Information

A few NECC conferences ago, I attended a session with Chris Lehmann. He introduced the word “prosumer,”  a combination of consumer and producer.  Chris predicted this word would soon make its way into the English language.

I am fortunate to work with a number of teachers who actively, consciously structure a students-as-producers model of learning. Each time I listen to Marco Torres talk about students as receivers of information vs. creators of information,  I realize the importance of showcasing the work of these innovative teachers, so that their colleagues and administrators will begin to consider the price students who are locked into year-long test-prep programs will pay for being denied access to our increasingly participatory culture.

One resource I’ve used for the past few years to start conversations around new definitions for 21st century literacies is B.J. Nesbitt’s A Vision of K-12 Students Today (an adaptation of Michael Wesch’s A Vision of Today’s  (College) Student) – a plea from students to become creators and producers:

I now have a new resource to add to my students-as-producers toolkit: the 2010 Horizon Report. This annual reporthorizon2010rpt from the New Media Consortium’s Horizon Project “describes emerging technologies likely to have a large impact on teaching, learning, or creative inquiry on college and university campuses within the next five years.”

If you don’t feel like reading it in its entirety, it’s very easy to skim through, thanks to the navigation-friendly format.  You might want to start with Key Trends and then move on to Critical Challenges.

Want to see what’s on the horizon? Check out these sections of the report:

If you wish you had a presentation that you could tomorrow with your colleagues, the CoSN group has created a teacher kit, complete with PowerPoint, waiting for you to download from their site.

I truly believe that one small step towards meeting the critical challenges listed in the report could be a commitment at all sites to shift at least some of the school day into a create/produce mode.

I would love to join – or co-facilitate – a conversation on making the shift from consumer to producer! If you have resources on the topic, please add a comment!

March 26, 2010
by blogwalker

Why Blog?

One of the basic tenets of the Writing Project is that to teach writing well, teachers must write. In our Web 2.0 world, that tenet should be extended a bit: to teach writing with technology well, teachers must also blog, tweet, and podcast—exploring writing in online environments—to understand the possibilities of the medium.”    ~ Grant Faulkner

My blog turned four this month:-).  So March was the perfect month to reflect a bit on why I blog. Thanks to an invitation from Grant Faulkner, I set aside some time to join my NWP colleagues Andrea Zellner and Joel Malley in writing a short piece about blogging and the edublogosphere.

Four years later, it’s hard to imagine teaching and learning without my blogging community.

Happy Birthday, Blogwalker!

December 27, 2009
by blogwalker

I Know Paul Allison

Yep, I know Paul Allison – and applaud his recent and well-deserved  Leader of the Year 2009 Award!

Paul has been a tech mentor and friend to me since I first met him at the National Writing Project’s 2004 Tech Matters Institute.  Tech & Learning was spot on in recognizing Paul’s creative efforts, starting with the on-going and ever-evolving Youth Voices Project:

With colleagues in New York City and across the country, Paul Allison developed a school-based social network for students called Youth Voices, in which students and their teachers share, distribute, and discuss digital work, images, audio, and video.

“Students seem to enjoy the opportunity to have authentic dialogue with peers,” says Allison. “Youth Voices gives students a place to develop a niche of followers, to become known through their work.”

I am quite sure a huge network of educators echo my pride in being able to say, “I know Paul Allison.”  And this probably won’t surprise you, but most of the ed tech ‘big wigs’ (the guys who get paid to present at local, state, and national technology conferences) frequently draw on Paul’s common sense, “keeping it real” approach to technology integration. Take, for instance, big wig Will Richardson. I bought a copy of his Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classroom a year after meeting Paul, while at a NECC conference. As I flipped through the chapters while waiting in line to pay for my copy and saw Paul Allison listed for several sections in the index, that might have been the first time I felt the need to boast aloud that I knew Paul. And my newest favorite read, Troy HicksThe Digital Writing Workshop, includes many references to Paul, including his Be a Blogger Matrix, a great resource for providing students with the scaffolding to become better digital writers.

It’s not just finding Paul’s name in books, either, that makes him so deserving of the Tech & Learning award. I remember a few years ago (before I knew how to send a Direct Message via Twitter) standing in front of a class of seniors at Florin High School and suddenly realizing I had a few questions about registering them in the Youth Voices project.  I’m pretty sure I impressed the heck out of both the students and their teacher by saying “I know Paul Allison,” pulling out my cell phone, and calling Paul for some just-in-time tech assistance.

When I think about my favorite technology tools (i.e., Edublogs, Wikispaces, Gcast, VoiceThreads) – and effective strategies for using them – it’s largely by knowing Paul and connecting with him face-to-face (I don’t get to do that too often), or by cell phone (I try not to do that too often), or by Skype (I do try to join the Teachers Teaching Teachers Wednesday evening sessions as often as possible) that I’ve learned powerful and multiple ways for taking students’ voices beyond the walls of the classroom.

One of the resources that I most often show teachers is the  video Paul made to show what collaborative writing in a classroom wiki is all about.  I love sharing this video with teachers who are new to Web 2.0 technologies because it really makes visible the process of digital composing.

A heartfelt congratulations on your award, Paul, and a huge thank you for your vision, your resources, and your amazing support and patience. Looking forward to many more opportunities to boast that “I know Paul Allison.”

July 12, 2009
by blogwalker

Digital Is – An amazing resource coming your way!

Over the next few months, the National Writing Project will be rolling out a resource that defies description: Digital Is. I had the good fortune the join the group back in April in Berkeley for an initial conversation about resources for 21st century teaching and learning. We reconvened over the past few days at Lake Tahoe, where my colleagues shared works-in-progress that pretty much leave me speechless.

For a starter, check out Bee Foster’s approach to teaching non-traditional text. Let’s start with Bee’s attempt to decode a high school football coach’s diagram for an offensive play. Such a great piece to get us thinking about student literacies not always recognized and rarely valued in a test-driven climate.

And if you’d like a window into how Bee teaches graphic pieces, join her for a tour of Hurdles.

Besides teacher-created media, my NWP colleagues have also gathered outstanding samples of student-created multimedia pieces, such as this documentary by Clifford Lee’ students on crime in the city of Oakland.

The above samples are but the tip of the iceberg in the Digital Is project. The resources to come span K-12 grade levels. Although she hasn’t uploaded her student samples of “smart thinking” yet, I can’t wait to share with primary teachers  Renee Webster’s use of podcasting as way to build literacy using selections such as Bill Peet’s Wump World!

As soon as the Digital Is site is officially ‘live,’ I’ll post the URL! In the meantime, I’ll continue to share pieces that have already been uploaded.

June 29, 2009
by blogwalker

Live from NECC – Slam Dunk Research via PowerPoint

I’m drawn to this session because the write-up states “model has your students investigating and answering higher-level questions.” The presenters are from Deep creek Magnet Middle School, outside of Baltimore.

A slam dunk model has 5 basic steps:

  1. questioning
  2. information sources
  3. activity
  4. assessment activity
  5. enrichment (extended) activities

Here’s a link to the session wiki –

Why PowerPoint? To help ‘late adopter’ teachers. Jamie McKenzie has already created the PowerPoint template – The idea is to make it easy for teachers to organize the project for students, including providing the links.

Session was a good combination of Jamie McKenzie resources and a truly simple way to introduce late adopters to using technology (which hopefully filters down to their students).

May 16, 2009
by blogwalker

Favorite Sites for the Week

  1. Over the last 24 hours, a ton of Tweeters are referencing WolframAlpha . Stephen Wolfram’s opening phrase Making the World’s Knowledge Computable sort of explains it. But you really need to listen to his introduction to get a feel for how mind-blowing this application is.  If you’ve been looking for an example to show administrators and colleagues about why for our students’ sake, it’s no longer about finding information (which the Internet makes easy-peasy); it should be about applying information. For a more extensive post on WolframAlpha visit Karl Fisch’s recent post (Sorry, Karl, I’m  not commenting directly on your blog because, due to your settings, I can only use my Blogger URL, which is actually my dog Nola’s blog)
  2. ScratchNWP colleague Kevin posted this resource. Wow!

    “Scratch is a free download (for Mac or Windows) that lets children build their own interactive games, animations, and digital stories. After building their creations, children can share their Scratch creations via the Web. Children can learn from each other, be inspired by one another, and build upon each others’ creations.”

    Designed by the “good folks at the Lifelong Kindergarten at MIT’s Media Lab,” Scratch “puts children in the driver’s seat. They become actors upon the world rather than acted upon by the world.” What a great resource for elementary computer lab teachers! Classroom 2.0 colleague Zack Dowell just Tweeted that “Scratch is a really excellent program – I know some 12 year olds that are obsessed with it!”

  3. From the DEN Diigo group via Tim Childers100 Incredibly Inspiring Blog Posts for Educators – Great range of articles!
  4. From NWP mentor Elyse E-ADrape’s Takes: The Educator’s Guide to Creative Commons. If you’re looking for an easy way to explain the CC concept, this is it!
  5. Also from Elyse E-A – We cannot have too many copyright friendly resources for educators like this recent post by Making Teachers NerdyBest sites to find Public Domain Images.

This weekend ends an exhausting week (daughter in bicycle accident and needs chauffeuring; son’s car vandalized and needs chauffeuring), so I’m taking a virtual trip to Verana, Mexico (near Puerta Vallarta), via this stunning photo tour.  Yep, it’s a commercial, but, oh my, what beautiful camera shots and angles!

Verana 2009 – The Houses from Heinz Legler on Vimeo.

Happy weekend to all!

April 21, 2009
by blogwalker

NWP Makes Visible the Intersection Between Technology and Writing

As my tag cloud shows, the National Writing Project is central to my personal learning network (PLN).  In previous posts, I’ve referred to the growing bank of resources (think “mind prompts”) showcasing inquiry, best practices, collaborative projects, etc., from teachers across the nation, who also find themselves in tech leadership positions and/or needing to justify the integration of technology in a test-driven climate.  In the past year, for example, I’ve revisited and directed colleagues to such powerful resources as Clifford Lee and Yumi Matsui’s documentation of Literacy, ELL, and Digital Storytelling, Henry Jenkins’ white paper on participatory cultures, and the dynamic Letters to the Next President project.

It was my privilege to travel to Berkeley this last weekend to join an amazing group of NWP colleagues as part of the Digital Is initiative. As an opening activity, we shared personal stories of a “whack on the head” – experiences that brought the integration of technology into our personal teacher tool kits. For a starter,  Liz Stevens, Director of the Central Texas Writing Project, shared her observation on the shift in the teaching of writing from being all about “stages” to being about “frames” – a huge “whack on the head” for me!

Over the next year, with additional input from the Digital Is Initiative, the NWP will be adding to their website, with a commitment to provide visitors with resources to enhance, shift, challenge their notions on teaching and to make visible the intersection between technology and writing.  For example:

  • Looking for an example to make visible the concept of composing multimodal texts? Checkout Peter Kittle’s Multimodal Documents Inquiry — and be sure to click on the video links!
  • Trying to make visible what collaborative writing via a wiki might look like with high school students? Checkout Paul Allison‘s Latino Pride screencast video.
  • Maybe you’re wondering how to join in a conversation about empowering students to use technology to change the world. Checkout a sample from the weekly Teachers Teaching Teachers webcast show (and join the Wednesday evening conversations!)

Based on the weekend conversations from  Digital Is group, I can assure you the above samples are but a glimpse of thought-provoking resources to come.

How about you?  Do you have a “whack on the head” to share?

    December 6, 2008
    by blogwalker

    Why We Should Teach Media Literacy

    Last week’s Teacher Teaching Teachers Skypecast brought a group of National Writing Project teachers together for a discussion of Henry Jenkins‘ paper Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century. Lots of gems in his findings, enough to justify printing out all 68 pages. Jenkins defines participatory culture as one:

    1. with relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement

    2. with strong support for creating and sharing one’s creations with others

    3. with some type of informal mentorship whereby what is known by the most experienced is passes along to novices

    4. where members believe that their contributions matter

    5. where members feel some degree of social connection with one another (at the least they care what other people think about what they have created).”

    This paper is great piece to share with administrators, who will be happy to see that textual literacy still remains a critical skill for the 21st century; in fact, “before students can engage with new participatory culture, they must be able to read and write.” New literacies “build on the foundation of traditional literacy, research skills, technical skills, and critical analysis skills taught in the classroom.”

    Jenkins’ includes the New Media Consortium‘s definition of 21st century literacy: “the set of abilities and skills where aural, visual and digital literacy overlap. These include the ability to understand the power of images and sounds, to recognize and use that power, to manipulate and transform digital media, to distribute them pervasively, and to easily adapt them to new forms.”

    Renee Hobbs is also cited in the paper. I recognized her name, but until reading Jenkins’ paper, had not looked at her work. Her My Pop Studio website “encourages young middle school and early high school aged girls to reflect more deeply about some of the media they consume – pop music, reality television, celebrity magazines – by stepping in to role of media producers.” Great resources for helping students to become critical consumers of media!

    So what are the challenges of participatory culture?;

    • Unequal access – I’m impressed with the ways in which Philadelphia is trying to address the access issues.
    • Transparency – How do you show how media shapes people’s understandings and beliefs?
    • Ethics challenge – Making ethical use of the Internet visible to students…that’s a huge issue!

    I think what amazes me about the power of participatory culture is collective creativity, made so visible by groups such as Playing for Change:

    Of course, it is availability of the Internet that makes participatory culture possible. Fourteen years ago, I stood before a school board and requested that the computer in my portable classroom be hooked to the Internet. A board member challenged me with “So will this change the world?” At the time, I wasn’t sure having a classroom connection to the Internet would change the world, so my response was “I don’t know, but it certainly reflects a changing world.” Wish I could continue that conversation 14 years later;-).

    November 11, 2008
    by blogwalker
    1 Comment

    Mathew Needleman’s K12Online Preso – Oh my!

    I’ve blogged about Mathew Needleman before. Since attending his CUE 08 presentation, I’ve been following his blog and have even written videoconferencing sessions with Mathew into my district’s current EETT grant. But if you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting face-to-face with Mathew in real time or virtual time – or even if you have – you now have the opportunity to watch the amazing video he created for his recent K12Online Conference presentation Film School for Video Podcasters!

    Mathew’s explanation of the storyboarding process will make you rethink those storyboarding templates (that I’ve been giving students). I also have a much better understanding of the Rule of Thirds now. He touched quickly on lighting too, an area I haven’t a clue about setting up, so I’m hoping maybe Mathew has an upcoming session on that topic.

    What a strong case for media literacy in the elementary curriculum! Just wish I had joined Mathew live for his K12Online Conference session. Next year for sure!

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