The wheels are spinning at SAS

We all know what happens when you get administrators that understand this Web 2.0 stuff. Shift happens! Andy Torris a good friend of mine, fellow Gourmet Geek, and oh yeah Deputy Superintendent at our school has the wheels a spinning on what Web 2.0 can mean for a school community. We had a great conversation starter today. What Andy and I really need is a day or two to talk through how this stuff will/can work….and we both believe it can. “I know there is power in Twitter!” he says has he starts talking about the Twitter account he set up for our school. We have some ideas on how our community can use Twitter to stay up on what is happening within the school. The school can use it to point to recent or updated information. Think of the following as Twitter updates: Practice for softball has been canceled today do to rain. Don’t forget to vote in the board election this week. Latest posting from principals can be found here. Fund raiser this week for Habitat for Humanity remember to support our clubs! As Andy and I continued talking today we both started talking about marketing and communication and how these tools could be very powerful for a private school such as ours in Shanghai. We also talked about Facebook and having more of a presence there. “I’ve already created an account.” he says with a smile on his face. Our conversation goes even deeper about how we need/can engage students at this level. We also talk about the new site I launched today for our school. A Netvibes Universe page that has all our feeds in one place. You can go to www.saschinaonline.org and you will be redirected to our Universe (check out my Universe via the new link at the top of my blog). This type of site I think has some great power for larger school districts. Could you imagine being in a school district of 20 or 30 schools and have one site like this for the community that brings the district together? I’ve been reading a lot about marketing lately and I think that’s part of all this. We need to market our schools to our students, our parents, our communities. How do we do that? What tools can we use? If you’re not already following Andy I would add him to...

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Blogs in Student-Led Conferences

Let me start this post with a disclaimer. There are a million ways to use blogs in education. The following is just one way we are using blogs at SAS. As my time winds down here at SAS I find myself reflecting on the past three years and keep asking myself: Did I leave a mark? I think we all go through this and we all want this on some level. We want to know that our institution is better off because we were there. That somewhere we left a mark on a student, on the organization, or on fellow teachers. I think it’s a natural human feeling to reflect and hope that you have had a lasting positive effect at your workplace. Last year I introduced blogging to SAS. A year later we have close to 700 student blogs/web sites and we’re closing in on 200 teacher blogs/websites. I say blogs/websites because I do believe the two are different and the way in which a user decides to use the space they have been given is up to them. Last year we saw the blogs be “another thing” that we were doing at our school. This year thanks to some leaders in the classroom the blogs at certain grades have become just what we do. Our middle school was been moving to a Student-Led Conference (SLC) format over the past two years. Personally I think it’s the only way to hold conferences with parents as it puts the student at the center of the learning process (what a concept). My last three years in the classroom I ran SLCs and at my last school in Saudi Arabia was head of a committee that saw us implement SLCs K-12 in our school (my lasting moment at that school). (An article I wrote in 2002 on Student-Led Conferences as part of my Master’s Degree) Student-Led Conference are usually built around a portfolio created by the student. This year our 8th grade team with the help of Amanda DeCardy (8th Grade Math teacher, and next year a technology integrator for the school) set out to use the blogs as a place for student to produce, upload, and reflect on work in their classrooms. Essentially creating an e-portfolios. Early in the year I sat down with the 8th grade team for about an hour and we discussed how students could organize their...

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Moving from Consumer to Producer of Information

(A blog post I wrote to 11th graders and to myself) Some interesting research has come out in the past couple of months that looks at the use of social networks and blogging and the trends that are happening in society today. Nearly half of 18-24 year old social networkers (45%) told Future Laboratory researchers that if they had 15 minutes of spare time they would choose spend it on social networking sites rather than watching TV, reading, talking on their mobile, or playing video games. The impact of this trend is so significant that a quarter (25%) of respondents state that the rise in social networks has decreased the amount of traditional television they consume. I continue to look at trends in our society and find myself among those that have decreased my TV time in favor of the social network. I continue to ask myself why is it that social networks are where I want to be and where I do most of my learning. What I have noticed personally is a change within myself from a consumer of knowledge to a producer of knowledge. Watching TV does not allow me to interact with knowledge, allow me to leave a comment, remix it into my own words, or interact with the author in a true and meaningful way. Social Networks, and the social web (also known as Web 2.0) allows me to not only consume but easily produce knowledge of my own. It is this interaction with knowledge that leads to new understandings and pushes me to think. Because I am connected to the social web I am then allowed to create new knowledge based on my new understandings. Does that make sense? What really interests me is that we use to believe that those who spent all their time connected to a computer where lonely, disconnected, and had no life. Yet new research is pointing to the exactly opposite. The research, from Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, found after two months of regular blogging, people felt they had better social support and friendship networks than those who did not blog. Those who are connected in social networks already know this, it’s just great to see research back it up. I have very few friends here in Shanghai, but I have support and friendship networks that are very live and personal to me. My wife gets...

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Student Information Online

I share with you and e-mail I sent out to the staff at my school today. Yes, I know that most of what I write would not fly in your school/district. But then again, we are a private international school…things just work differently here, and that’s a good thing! I strongly believe that international education will change and adapt faster than any public system. What slows us down is the larger educational system (colleges, SAT, IB, AP, etc).But I do believe we are the front runners for change because at times we’re allowed to out run ourselves.Question: What is the school’s policy on using student names and pictures on the Internet? Answer: A question that has been coming up more and more as we put more and more information online is what is the school’s policy. I will do my best to keep this short. The school does not have a policy at this time about what and how we handle student information on the web. The “unwritten rule” use to be that we did not put students names with pictures on the web. Last year the communication department started putting Parent Talk online in the form of a PDF and Google at the same time release an update that allowed it to search PDF documents. So at the highest levels within SAS we have been discussing this very issue. Where do we draw the line? As more and more research comes out on just how NOT dangerous the Internet is we’ll have to look at how we protect our students. New York Times: How Dangerous Is the Internet for Children? APA: Internet Predator Stereotypes Debunked in New StudyFor example, in spite of public concern, the authors found that adolescents’ use of popular social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook do not appear to increase their risk of being victimized by online predators. Rather, it is risky online interactions such as talking online about sex to unknown people that increases vulnerability, according to the researchers. What we do know is that there are a couple little things we can do that will keep students safe and at the same time allow them to be acknowledged on the Internet (which is what they want, what they demand in their digital world). 1. Do not post personal informationStudents and teachers should not post personal information on the Internet. Street address,...

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When blogs are just what your school does

Yes we have over 600 student blogs running here in Shanghai. From grades 4-12, students are blogging up a storm. In fact we’re getting to a point that the blogs are part of just what students do here. Today this e-mail was sent out to all staff from a student (shared here with permission…and excitement). To whom it may concern,   My name is Caitlin and I am a 8th grader. Recently we have been working on a project about global issues in my Humanities class.   My group decided to focus on school violence. One of the actions we are taking in order to lower school violence is a blog. A blog made for teens to vent and if needed contact us about their problems. This will hopefully get to teens before they result to violence or catch the violence before it get serious. We would greatly appreciate if you wouldn’t mind forwarding this email to anyone who can help, post something about our blog http://blogs.saschinaonline.org/mixedemotions and linking our blog on your blog or any other website, inform teenagers about our blog, and finally (if possible) check out our blog yourself and leave a commit.     Thank you so much, Caitlin How cool is this! That the students are starting their own blogs for projects, are using them for learning, for communicating, for collaborating, and for helping others. They are starting to understand what it means to have an authentic audience. I mean, they’ve always understood it. Just now I think they’re seeing the power in the network, the power in learning and communicating in a place that is open and familiar to them for educational purposes. What I love is that the first thing any student does when they start a new blog is activate the FireStats plugin so they can see how many people are viewing their site. They usually then go to clustermaps or somewhere else on the web and get themselves a map of where people are coming from. An audience is important to them. It is important to know that someone else is reading your thoughts, maybe even leaving a comment. They want, and at this point, crave that authentic audience. They are also understanding the importance of linking. The e-mail is asking teachers to link to their blog so others can find them. That right there is understanding the power of networks. When sharing, communicating,...

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