Why time in the hallways is time well spent

In my Day in the Life video I say this a couple of times and  I can’t stress it enough to education technology teachers/integrators out there that the time you spend in the hallways is time well spent.

This morning I was on my way to get a cup of coffee as per my usual morning routine. I have three different routes I can take to the cafeteria an try to take a different way everyday. Why? Because they lead past different classrooms giving me access to those teachers and students. You never know where you will find a conversation, an opportunity to learn, or an opportunity to teach.

I walked down the art hall today and as I passed the middle school art room I spotted an 8th grade girl who has done some digital art work for me in the past (she loves gimp and uses it exclusively). So I popped in and watched her work on a painting she was doing, and asked her some questions. Found out that they have been studying Friedrich Hundertwasser (German Wikipedia entry) and were in the process of creating a painting based off his style. The teacher came over and we chatted for a little while about the project, the research they did on Friedrich and this culminating activity.

I love art rooms, kids everywhere, music always blaring, and yet focus…always such focus on the work.

I then went on my way down to the cafeteria where I ran into our high school AP history teacher who was getting coffee as well. She started talking about the Moodle course she’s running with her students and how she loves the forums and how they allow students to think before they respond. We talked about how many of our students who are second language English speakers do not participate in class because the conversation moves to quickly. They cannot formulate their responses fast enough to be part of the conversation. What she has found though is that in the forums the students are able to respond, and respond very well.

What really excited her though was how the students are continuing to talk about topics long after they have moved on in class. The example she gave was a topic they studied 4 weeks ago and the forum discussion was around the passing of amendments after the civil war. She told me that they still bring it up in class and it continues to influence in class discussions. The fact that “They won’t stop posting and discussing it.” is what makes these programs so powerful. There is a record of the conversation, a conversation that is not over until the community has decided that it’s over. You want to talk about going deeper into a subject or issue? How about a topic that students were suppose to leave 4 weeks ago, are not getting graded on anymore, but are still continuing to talk about and discuss in and out of class. She’s also working with another AP class in the States and the two classes are working on some forums together…very cool.

We talked some more and I gave her some tips on how to quickly view where and what each student has posted in Moodle without having to scan every single forum entry. She was grateful for the tip and I could see the shine in her eyes at though I had just given her a golden ticket…which I did…her time.

I then walked back to my office and found an e-mail waiting for me from the middle school art teacher who’s class I had popped into 10 minutes earlier. She wanted to know if I could help her take pictures of the student’s art work and put it on our school flickr account.

So in the 15 minutes I left my office this morning. I learned something, taught something, and opened a door to an opportunity to support a teacher. Our job is about building relationships, you will not be invited into a classroom if you cannot create the opportunities to be invited.

So take some time, go get a cup of coffee and walk the halls. If a Principal asks you what you are doing just say “I’m building relationships for learning!”

[tags]relationships[/tags]

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9 Comments

  1. I’m curious about your school Flickr account. My student bloggers are getting frustrated with our school filter, which currently blocks both Flickr and PhotoBucket. Does your school block Flckr, allowing kids to access only the school Flickr account? Is that actually possible–to unblock the specific URL, allowing kids to access a single account on Flickr rather than allowing them to access all images on Flickr?

    My blog: <a href=”http://justread.wordpress.com”<JustRead!

  2. I will also be awaiting the flickr response…..our’s is blocked. It’s too bad, because all of my blogging workshops used Flickr as a photo upload site before it was blocked…..
    I’m also interested in what blogging sites your district is permitted to use.

    Love that you incorporated Moodle and teachers are using it!!!! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Flickr is unblocked at our school and we do allow students to search it for photos. In fact we prefer the use Flickr then Google image search. Flickr allows you to search for creative commons photos meaning you have permission to use them. You don’t know that using Google. So we use it at as way to teach copyright at the same time.

    As for blogging software, everything that is freely hosted is blocked in China. So we installed our own blogging software using WordPress MU.

    The student blogs can be found at http://blogs.saschinaonline.org and the teachers can be found at http://teachers.saschinaonline.org

    Next year our hope is to connect the databases together so a user can login in one time and be logged into Moodle and their blog and a hosted wiki and their e-mail. That’s our hope anyway…we’ll see if we can make it happen.

  4. Hi,

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    Please take a look at this groundbreaking website, as it offers many helpful resources for its users. To help maximize exposure to the site, you could even provide a link to ZipRoad on The Thinking Stick blog.

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  5. I agree–Flickr should be unblocked–as should many other sites schools often block. But, since our school blocks Flickr AND Google Images (We bypass the Google Images block by typing “photos” after a search term in a regular Google search.), would it be possible to unblock a single URL Flickr account? Could this be a way to solve the no-access-Flickr-problem many schools encounter?

    The downside, I realize, is that kids can access only a limited set of photos. But, we do have access to cameras, so kids could take their own photos, or as a school–or perhaps a class–we could build our own library of photos to share that would be accessible from school.

    This is all a theory. I’m hoping someone will know if this might be doable. I’ve been searching for some time for a solution to this problem. In fact, one of my students is so frustrated, he recently wrote a blog post voicing his frustrations: <read it here

  6. I would think that your IT people would be able to unblock the specific URL to your flickr account. Where you might run into an issue though is trying to upload photos because it uses the web address flickr.com/??? which would still be blocked.

    If your school is going to block all pictures from students (which I still can’t believe they’re doing). Have they thought about setting up their own image website? So that your students can upload and use and create their own library of pictures to use? There is free software that you could install on a server and make a password protected image site just for your school/district to use.

    Just a thought. :)

  7. Hi Jeff-

    My name is Max Green, I’m a student at Illinois State University who is studying to become a high school Biology teacher. While reading this blog of yours, I couldn’t help but think about the ideas of Lev Vygotsky. He was a Russian developmental psychologist who believed that the key to cognitive development was social interaction with people and cultural tools. He believed that methods like scaffolding and peer collaboration were extremely important throughout the learning process. It’s one thing to learn about these concepts in a classroom lecture (as I am this semester), but seeing their successful application in the real world is truly refreshing. Keep alive the work and memory of Lee Semenovich Vygotsky; promote learning through social interaction!

    -max-

  8. Mr. Utecht,

    I am an Illinois State University student in the education department. Your blog was very interesting to me on many levels. I am currently enrolled in a Curriculum and Instruction class which is “technology enriched.” We are learning the value of blogging and how technology can facilitate learning of students with differing abilities or rates of learning. We had been discussing in lecture today a child who had been promoted a grade due to intellect and the problems surrounding that. It is interesting to hear about the students who were unable to participate in the classroom discussions due to a language barrier, or speed thereof. When presented with opportunity to think through the information and added time to respond, the students seemed to soar. Perhaps classroom blogging is the answer to the lulls in classroom participation or other barriers that seem to plague us at teachers.

    Conversely, I appreciated your stress of walking the halls or the social aspect of school. I also believe that you never know whom you might run into and how that will impact lives. Schools seem to be afraid of technology, unsure of what to allow students to do. You have mentioned the key to solving this problem, finding out *by relationships*, what the needs are and presenting safe and valuable tools to facilitate learning (Gimp, Moodle, school flickr account, etc.).

    Thank you for your insight.
    Stephanie Mocilan

  9. The fear, in our district, is opening up Flickr will violate CIPA. I’m wondering if our district will soon block Google images. Based on the above comments, there may be some unsavory images there also?? Interestingly enough, I have used Flickr for 3 years now and have never seen a unacceptable picture. Perhaps I should try to see what our security folks are seeing and look from their perspective…..The comments about creative commons photos are well taken and I completely agree. Thanks to Jeff for making that important point.
    Carol

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