Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself. ~ John Dewey

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Corporate Slave logo by dreamLogicOur high school digital media class has been creating some great work. Simon May (who will soon have a blog of his own) has done a great job of allowing the students to create their own assignments around digital media.

Early in the year Simon had the students come up with a name for the site and then purchased the domain name. Next they worked in Photoshop to create fliers to put around the school. Eagle Eye View or Eagle i view was born.

The latest development has been the use of the site as a way to give students information on classes as they sign-up for electives next year. What I like is that it is Simon that is interviewing the teachers and posting the podcasts showing that it’s not just students who can and should be producing for the web site.

What if a school had a website that teachers, administrators, and students could all post to? What would happen as Sean has us thinking lately we blurred the lines between teachers and students and had one space that everyone was able to post to. It could be words, video, or audio. What if the school website was a collection of thoughts from all stake holders. Dangerous? For sure! Powerful….maybe.

I love reading web sites created by students. Chris Craft’s students who have created the Teach Jeff Spanish site is another example of how empowering students to create information and knowledge can be a learning experience.

  • Eagle i View is set to teach students about producing quality web content: videos, audios, images.
  • Teach Jeff Spanish is about learning through teaching (what a concept!).

There are so many ways to use the web for learning it comes down to imagination and having the support within your school to make it happen.

[tags]sas, student produced[/tags]

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Yesterday the Edublog Award winners were announced and what a proud moment for Shanghai American School, Jason Welker, and the 140+ students who over the past two years have helped to create a fantastic wiki.

Welcome to Welker's Wikinomics Page - Welker's Wikinomics Page There’s a story here that I believe needs to be told and one that makes me very proud that I get an opportunity to work with teachers like Jason who are not only open to new ways of teaching and learning, but that once that spark hits, they take off and leave me playing catch up.

I’ll never forgotten the first time I visited the Welker’s Wikinomics Wiki. It was about 6pm one night last year when I got an e-mail from Jason asking me to take a look at the wiki that he was building with his students. I headed over to the wiki and was greeted by a Gabbly Chat window with 4 people in it. I stopped and watched for awhile as Jason and three of his students talked about economics. It was one of the help sessions that Jason ran after hours for his students. They could come to the wiki, have a chat with Jason or any of the other students there about homework, that days lesson, or about the pages they were creating, changing, manipulating on the wiki. I was completely taken back. I chatted with Jason through the Gabbly Chat window for a bit talking about the site and about wetpaint wikis.

At one point last year I stopped by Jason’s room where he was finishing up a lesson and told the students about a funny econ video that he had found on YouTube.

One of the students in the class asked Jason to play the video for them. Jason just smiled and said, “You’ll have to watch it when you go to do your homework tonight.”

I talked to Jason about posting YouTube videos on his wiki and he told me he found it a great way to get students to go to the wiki. He would play some of the videos in class and others he would just embed on the wiki itself and give them the teaser in class. Jason had tapped into their world. Using their love of YouTube and videos as an incentive to go to the site and get their work done.

As the site grew, Wetpaint picked it up and promoted it to the front page of their site as one of their “sites of the week.” Jason of course relayed this to his students and thus begins Welker’s Wikinomics surge to greatness. You see, the students became proud of their work, wanted to do more work, and wanted to keep their wiki on the front page of the site. As the 2006-2007 school year drew to a close Welker’s Wikinomics was taking off.

At the start of this year a new group of IB Econ students walked into class and instantly were hooked by the wiki, by what the students before them had started, and a sense of ‘keeping the tradition’ emerged. Students wanted to continue to build the wiki, to make it better, and to use it as part of their learning vehicle.

At the same time Jason and I started communicating with Wetpaint developers about creating ad-free wikis for educators. Jason and I worked with Wetpaint through the month of September offering up the wikis ran by our teachers here at SAS as test wikis for the ad-free version. All was set, the final touches were being put on the wikis in education site when China decided that it had seen enough traffic going to wetpaint and decided to block wetpaint and all wikis on it.

Our school had over 30 wikis running on wetpaint. Some like Jason’s were becoming well established and were getting promoted to the front page as well. There was a wiki revolution happening at SAS that on Oct. 3rd (I have the e-mails from upset teachers to remember the date) stopped.

There’s not much one can do when China decides to block sites. Sure there are ways around the block, but it’s annoying. It means more clicks, slower connections and becomes frustrating very quickly. Most of our teachers gave up on their wetpaint wikis that are now blocked.

Jason and his IB Econ students wouldn’t quick though. They continued to find ways around the China blockage. They continued to add, edit, and create their wiki because it was important to them.

At the same time Jason and I contacted wetpaint and we started brainstorming ways to get wetpaint unblocked in China. We worked with wetpaint developers as they even set up another IP address for SAS wikis and tried to port us into the wikis through a back channel. I can’t say enough about the people at wetpaint and their support throughout the month of October as Jason and I worked with them to try to find some solution to the Chinese blockage.

In the end, we did not find a solution and the wikis, including Welker’s Wikinomics remain blocked by China. As committed as China is to blocking the site, the student’s in Jason’s class are just as committed to continuing their use of the site. A site that now holds its place among one of the best created by students.

I wish the story ended there, but this week we have seen another side affect of this digital world. Jason has done amazing work with his students, and his social presence is paying off for him professionally as well. Today, Jason wrote the following e-mail (published with permission):

I have some other exciting news. I have just accepted a job teaching IB Economics at Zurich International School for the 2008-2009 school year! I’ll finish out this year in Shanghai, then head to Switzerland for next year! The exciting news is there’s no firewalls in Switzerland, and my new school is a 1-to-1 laptop school so we’ll be wikiing like never before there! In fact, it was the wiki (and my blog) that got me the job. The principal really wanted someone with experience integrating technology into the classroom, and after seeing the wiki they were sold!

Jason is an avid skier and hiker. Zurich will be a great place for him. As I talked to him this weekend he said “It’s my dream job.”

There is power in these tools. Not even the most talked about firewall in the world can stop dedicated teachers and students from learning. From creating, collaborating, and editing knowledge.

So here’s to you Jason and the 140+ students that have not allowed obstacles get in the way of the learning process!

[tags]wikis, sas, edublogawards[/tags]

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On Oct. 30 I wrote about a presentation I gave to our High School student body on Oct. 29th. To date it was one of the hardest presentations I’ve had to give. Talking to students about their spaces, about their future, and trying to make an impact that lasted well after the 45 minute presentation. I wore jeans, a loose shirt, and wanted them to view me as a friend, not another adult telling them to “Get off of facebook”.

studentpresonov2007Today, I visited two of the facebook.com groups that our students here started and that I used in the presentation. As you may or may not know groups in facebook are public. Meaning anyone with a facebook account can search, view, and join other public groups. For the presentation I took pictures from different groups I found and used them to show that you can’t control information once it’s on the web. That anyone has access to things you post, groups you belong to, and the people you call your friends.

I told the students during the presentation that I love belonging to groups too, but if you create or administer a group you have the right…and obligation to make sure it is a site that you want your name attached to. I talked about ‘stepping up’ and showing Universities and future employers that you understand the power of the web. That you know there is responsibilites that come with posting information in this open, public place we call the Internet.

I’m happy to report that visiting the two groups today here is the message I was greeted with:

ATTENTION
**To create the safe environment, safe privacy, and profanity free environment, adjustment were, and will be made**

and

******* IMPORTANT *******October 29th, 2007:Recently Shanghai American School staff have discovered this group and used it as an example of an unsafe, inappropriate internet social network in a school-wide assembly (including the pictures in the album). Initially this group was NOT meant to be an inappopriate group or contain sexually explicit material, so PLEASE help keep it that way. Teachers and staff and anyone will be able to view anything you post here since it’s a public group and I am keeping it that way, because I mean it when I say this group was not created to toe the lines of unsafe internet conduct. Personally I don’t understand why people see this group that way. Anyway, this is just a reminder. If you feel like you have to delete or add anything please feel free to do so. Thanks.

Gotta tell you. I’m proud of them. They took it to heart, and are making changes to their online profiles so that they reflect the kind of person they want to be. This is a great generation. They do understand the power the Internet and being connected holds…heck they’ve created it! Helping them and educating them to use it in a positive way is what today’s education system should be all about!

[tags]21st Century Education, SAS[/tags]

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When technology all works, it can do some amazing things. Yes, there are hills and valleys to the use of technology, but when technology allows students to engage in the learning process and create some simply amazing projects….I still shake my head in awe when I see what happens when we can guide them in the process. When we get out of their way and allow them to learn and create on their own.

This VoiceThread is from our IB art class. The teacher has been doing some great things with art and technology. Her latest activity has students talking about their art work on VoiceThread. Now if only we could find another art class to come and leave comments the circle would be complete.

Next a 9th grade science class has been working on reporting their lab findings in a different format. The best part about this project was when I was helping the students download their video I said, “Yeah, I think we’ll upload these to YouTube.” The looks on the kids faces was priceless and one group even said, “We’ve got to do a good job now, I want a good rating.” Motivation comes in different ways. 😉

This is technology embedded into the classroom. This is technology the way I love watching it being used. In a way that just fits what is already being done. Could these have been done in another way? Sure. But would they have engaged students as much as they did? Probably not. This is there medium, this is there world and when we engage them in the learning process in their world, they get excited, they want to preform, they want to learn!

[tags]sas, embedded technology[/tags]

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Why? Because it’s their language! Educators who say they understand students and do not understand why you would/should use technology resources in the classroom really don’t get it. Technology in many different forms engages students today. It is how they want to learn, it is their language, and by allowing them to use technology we actually engage them in the learning process. We allow them to use their tools to learn.

Our 8th grade science team approached me a couple weeks back to help them with a project. Student’s create Environmental Non-Profit Governmental Organizations (NGOs). They have a lot of work and research to do. The teachers wanted (as they’ve done in the pass) the student to create a web site for their NGO. A great way to bring technology into the project in an embedded fashion. This year when the team approached me I pitched the idea of a wiki instead of having students create sites in Dreamweaver.

We want our students to focus on the content, we want them to create knowledge and meaning not spend their science hours designing a web page. A wiki allows just that, it’s basic, simple and in many cases ‘less is more’ when working with students.

So we set over 100 students in 36 groups up with a single wiki. Here’s the important part. I did one 50 minute training session on how to use a wiki and this is the result:

http://env-ngo.wikispaces.com

(The use of wikispaces is because it remains the unblocked wiki program in China.)

(I created one login account for each period, so all 100 students logged on using 1 of 6 accounts. The end product was graded not individual participation in the creation of the site so this format works.)

Half of one class period to teach students how to edit and create wiki pages. The last thing I told all the students “Get creative, think outside the box, and create something cool!”

As any project goes some are better then others, but overall I am very impressed at the work the groups did, the embedding of YouTube videos and videos and images from other sources gave the students possibilities and engaged them in looking for content related to their environmental issue.

Today, every group set up shop and presented their NGO. They had to sell their NGO, tell people why they should support it, what they were trying to do, and what their 3 year plan was. It was a great time, students full of passion about environmental issues. Each group had a laptop open with their wikispace page proudly presented. I watched as students checked each others web sites out. Mostly, they watched videos about acid rain, deforestation, and pollution. Sure the content was good, but the videos were the engaging factor for the students. You could hear students asking each other “How did you embed that?” “Where did you find that at?” “That’s cool, how’d you do that?” One group was even smart enough and brought headphones so that people that stopped by their booth could listen over the noise.

The use of the technology engaged the students in the learning process. They went out and watched videos on their topic, read and embedded pictures that helped to add flare to just the boring writing of page after page of information. The best part for me was watching students link to each other’s NGO projects. One group that did a NGO on Pollution linked to another group that created an NGO on Air Pollution. So now you have students linking information together, learning from each other. AWESOME!

It’s not about the technology…it’s about learning, about engaging students in the process. It’s about getting out of their way and saying: GO CREATE SOMETHING COOL!

And they do it, they want to do it, we just need to be there to support them, to keep them on track, to ask probing questions that make them think deeper…that’s what teachers do, that is our job.

Of course to top it off I had to make a point why every teacher and administrator should walk around with a mp3 recording device in their pocket at all times. I saw an opportunity to record learning in action and took it. What administrator wouldn’t want this kind of recording about learning coming out of their school. Teachers talking about projects they are passionate about, principals talking teamwork, and kids talking about learning!

People accuse me often of having a passion for technology, and I do. But my passion for technology comes from my passion for learning. To see students engaged with information, creating something new, and getting excited about what they’ve learned and created is why I love education. Technology or not the learning process and seeing students engaged and excited about it is what I’m truly passionate about!

[tags]SAS[/tags]

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A great use of a blog from some of our middle school staff and students. Our middles school does a “Week without walls” where they go and visit other cities in Shanghai for the week.

Day 1: China Alive 8 2007 - Tea Plantation, GuilinBefore they left I met with the 8th grade team who set up a blog and each day have the students reflect on what they did and learn that day. The teachers are also taking pictures while on the trip. They upload the pictures to our school’s flickr account and they appear in the sidebar of the blog.

Another teacher has set up a podomatic site and each day does a podcast with the students.

What a great way for other students, parents, and those of us that didn’t get to go on the trip to stay connected.

[tags]SAS[/tags]

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So my post earlier today was a lot of frustration at myself and not having the skills necessary to continue to move my school forward. I was at my wits end and was not looking forward to walking into first period and hearing the “Mr. U, I can’t get on my blog.” I felt as though I had let them down, that blogging has become a part of ‘just what they do’ and I had taken that away from them…even if it was only for 4 days….they were missing it…I was missing it..and I didn’t know how to fix it.

But I did know where to turn to for help. I have to say rackspace.com calls their support “Fanatical Support” and I have to give it to Alex today who spend 1 1/2 hours on the phone with me trying to figure out what the problem was. I was proud of myself though that everything that he checked I had already checked. My database was fine, all the files checked out, and domain was set up correctly. It came to a point that over the phone Alex says to me. “Well, when you don’t know what to do…read the manual.” Not sure how old Alex is, but he sounded Native to me.

After reading and trying a couple tweaks on the Apache server, he finally found the right combination.

the apache configuration was modified from this:

Directory var=”” www=”” vhosts=”” saschinaonline=”” blogs=””

allow from all

Options +Indexes

/Directory

to this:

Directory var=”” www=”” vhosts=”” saschinaonline=”” blogs=””

AllowOverride FileInfo Options

/Directory

There you have it two simple lines in the way in which the server looks at scripts was the difference between no blogs, and 500+ happy bloggers.

As soon as the blogs appeared I could feel the stress leave my shoulders, and I started jumping around the room. I ran to my wife’s office, she wasn’t there so I left her a note. When she got back to her office she called me and then ran to my office to give me a big huge (I know, I know, she’s awesome!). She knew she got her husband back.

Anyway….the site is running really well. Moodle was updated to the latest 1.8 release. The student blogs are all up and running. We’re launching a beta teacher site, where teachers can set up web sites for use in their class. It’s actually a WordPress MU installation, but WordPress has so many different options that it can be way more than a blog. So we’ve decided to call them web sites rather than blogs. It’s in beta for the rest of this year and we’re taking the geek teachers who want to test it out with us on a two month trial here at the end of the year and hoping for a full out launch come August.

Now this site is no where near our friends the Hong Kong International School to the south and what they are doing with their Dragon Net. (See L&L Feb. 2007) But it is a long way from where we were just two years ago. As you can see there are still two more spots for things we hope to bring online next year. I could tell you what they were but that’d spoil the fun. 🙂

A big thank you to everyone in the blogosphere for your support, especially those of you who follow me on my twitter account and had the benefit of a play by play last weekend of the ups and downs as I worked through the site.

So I’m back among the sane…for a little while anyway until I decide to try something crazy again…the scary part it…I’ve already got ideas running around in my head. So is the life of a continual learner. 🙂

[tags]SAS[/tags]

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A teacher at our high school is running a Poetry Competition. The students post their poems on a blog for all to read. If you have some time with your High School class, it might be a nice assignment to read and respond to some of the blogs there. I’ve read a couple of them and some are very well done in my opinion. I just read one written about one of our students who perished in the Tsunami in 2004…..ug.

http://www.poetry.saswire.com/

[tags]SAS[/tags]

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You hear all the time about how fast Shanghai is growing, and how fast they are/can build stuff in this country. Well here is a great example. They broke ground on our new high school sometime early January when we were away on Winter holiday. The school will be finished in August when students arrive. That’s 8 months to build a 3 store state of the art high school that includes a couple of gyms and other facilities needed. I have a great view just outside my office from the stairs that looks directly into the construction zone. You might want to click on the pictures below to see the amazing progress that’s been made in one weeks time.

March 7th

March 10th

March 13th

[tags]SAS[/tags]

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Tonight I’m sitting here shaking my head at all the amazing things that teachers are doing this year and how we are changing the way we use technology. Teachers continue to find great ways to incorperate these new tools. Here is a look at some of the great things happening as my school.

First let’s start with my 7th Graders who today finished their Digital Stories. The assignment: Create a 1 minute message that informs or teaches people how to be safe on the Internet. We have a school youtube account (that’s right most schools are blocking Youtube and we have a school wide account to share our videos at!) So after you watch the video below head on over to http://www.youtube.com/user/saschool and check out the other 20 videos that have been uploaded so far.

Then after you’ve done that you might want to head over to our 5th grade blogs. Check out Mrs. Power’s blog and read some of the 5th grade blogs she has listed under her Blogroll. Tomorrow another class of 5th graders will upload their first podcasts to their blogs: Some poems they’ve remixed..so be looking for those as well.

And then what every Principal should be required to do. Today I had meetings all day and couldn’t create our weekly podcast with the 5th graders. So I asked my Principal Andy Torris if he would help out, handed him my iPod with the Belkin TuneTalk Stereo attached and told him to go on a walk about. How cool is this podcast and why aren’t more principals doing this as a way to communicate with their community?

To think that a year and a half ago when I came here non of this was going on. That technology was not getting out side the labs and that the 45 minutes elementary kids had once a week was basically technology. From that to a school that is bursting with excitement and teachers who are looking, asking, and hungry for ways to incorporate these tools into their teaching and learning, engaging students in fun ways within the learning process.

As I said three times today…it’s not about technology…we’re talking learning!

Enjoy!

[tags]School2.0, SAS[/tags]

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