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21st Century Learning

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Today I found out just what a vacation will do to you. I spent 4 hours helping some 34 9th graders start new blogs, and I no longer have a voice.

We’ve run wordpressmu were we have over 600 4th-12th grade students blogging (School of 2900ish K-12). Students only set up blogs once a teacher contacts one of the educational integrators and they decide that the blog is the best avenue for learning.

Today’s meeting was sparked by a science teacher who has been looking for a way to start e-portfolios with his 9th grade science students. We’ve been talking for the past couple of weeks as the teacher and I work out just what he wants the program to do and I add my two cents about what the program can do and at the same time push the teacher to think even deeper about what this blog, and his blog, can offer his students.

The classes were each 80 minutes long…plenty of time to setup a blog, write a short blog post, learn about posts vs. pages, walk through how to manage comments, change themes, update options, change password, and have a discussion on the use of the blog.

I always find it interesting when teachers come to me and are amazed when I tell them we can accomplish all this in a 80 minute class. But these kids…this generation….they just get it…and I love it!

My first question lately has been “How many of you have a Facebook page?”

Of course everyone raises their hand and looks at me like “dah!”

I then continue to compare their new blog to their Facebook page. Explaining things like “Blog posting are like your wall in Facebook, the latest comment is always on top and the rest get pushed down the line.”

They get that, it’s there language

I compare sidebar widgets to all the apps you can add to your Facebook page. Where you can drag and drop them and have some control over the layout of your page….not total control…but some.

The kids of course just go with it. My favorite part is signing them up for their blog. You sign up, get the e-mail, click the link, get the password, log in.

What do I say? “You guys know how this works let me know when you’re finished.”

And off they go setting up their blogs….it got me thinking today that there are not many things standard on the web today, but the process of signing up for most of these online sites…is the same…the whole verifying e-mail thingy…they know it.

After I was done today the teacher (who was in the room the whole time following along and setting up and making changes to his own blog…and for teachers…hearing the same thing three times is just about right 😉  ) and I talked about what was next and how he felt taking it to the next level. We even started talking about other ways he could use the blog other than as a portfolio and showcase for student work.

We talked about having the students find a science video on YouTube or TeacherTube, embedding it in their blog and then writing a reflection on whether or not they followed the scientific process. Why would you do this? Because it engages students! Our students all watch YouTube, so lets watch it with a purpose, and learn something, analyze something, and reflect on the over all video.

We then talked about the teacher embedding a video and having an assignment where the student left comments on his blog discussing some aspect of the video depending on the assignment.

This is the reason why I love blogs, they open up a whole world of opportunities. At a basic level they are easy to manage websites (which is OK). On a higher level they can allow students to create, reflect, analyze, and publish work and content from their classes.

I love blogging software…not only for the sake of blogging but for its ease of use…I think that’s the revolution, that’s the catch, and today we added more student blogs to the blogosphere!

[tags]science, 21st Century Learning[/tags]

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I’ve been catching up on my RSS reader over the past couple of day. I’ve decided I need to prune the aggregator again and really focus in on some good solid learning that I need to do.

George Siemens’ connectivism blog is one that always makes my brain hurt. I’ve just tried reading four articles in a row and now I’m looking for the advil. George has a writing style that is so clear, so true that, for me at least, pulls me in and really makes me think about my own learning, my own beliefs and question what it is I’m trying to accomplish. If you don’t use an RSS reader he allows you to sign up for a bi-weekly newsletter that is well work an extra e-mail in your inbox.

Out of the four posting I just got done reading, the posting on Digital natives and immigrants has me thinking about where we are in society.

Siemens believes that the Prensky analogy of Digital Native, Digital Immigrants has

outlived the role it initially played in getting educators to think about the different types of learners now entering our classrooms.

I agree with this statement the more I think about it, but I’m still left searching for a better analogy of the shift that has occurred.

Siemens goes on to explain that the shift has been in society and not in the generation itself. Something that easily hits home with me working at a school in China that has gone from 850 international students to almost 3,000 in the same time the Internet as we know it today has existed. Coincidence? I think not.

As I gave a presentation to parents today explaining to them their children and how they learn, communicate, collaborate, and live digitally, I found myself still using Prensky’s analogy. Those of us in the business need to understand that it is society that is changing and why we need to change our educational systems. But for mothers and fathers understanding that the tools their children use are different, allow them to communicate and live in different ways continues to be an emotional attachment that the digital natives, digital immigrants argument still fits nicely into.

In 2001 when Prensky wrote the paper I do not think many of us understood the changes to society that were and would take place over the next six years. Many people credit Thomas Friedman and his book The World is Flat with bringing this social shifts to the main stage. But yet I’m left looking for a ‘hook’ when talking to parents and other educators that might better explain to them the children they are now raising and teaching. To understand that these children are different because of the tools they have available to learn with not the generation itself. Although they are a great generation but they would have been without these tools. They wouldn’t have been as connected, as global, but still great.

So I’m left thinking; what’s the hook? What is it we tell educators, administrators, parents, school boards, and community members for the reason we need to shift the way we teach? They have been part of this social shift yet they don’t understand it, or refuse to see it. Out-sourcing is part of this shift, so is in-sourcing, so is innovation, and business. We all live in this shifted society but do we understand it? Do we understand what it means not only for us but for our children?

What is the hook?

[tags]shiftedlearning, Thomas Friedman, World is Flat, 21st Century Learning, Connectivism[/tags]

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It seems in the past month I have read about, have had e-mails from, or read twitter messages looking at creating or at least revisiting their school technology plans. I guess the 3 year plans are coming do, or schools are starting to understand that the technology plan written in the late 90’s or even early 2000’s will not work for what is needed in our schools today.

With the uncontrollable use of social networks and media sites by both teachers and students schools are having to revisit their technology plans and rethink technologies role in their schools.

I personally have been thinking a lot about this lately as, like others, our school is in this process. So I’ve decided to write a series of post focusing on the notion of a technology plan in the ear of the read/write web. Please note that this plan does not in anyway represent my school, but instead are my own thoughts on what a tech plan should and shouldn’t be and do.

The Circle:

Any school when developing any plan should starts with student learning in mind.

Learning Support

So let’s start in the center and work these ideas out a little.

Student Learning:

In order to create a technology plan that supports student learning we must first understand how students learn in this new digital landscape. We can look at the new Bloom’s Taxonomy and George Siemen’s Connectivism Theory (Download Knowing Knowledge for real in depth thinking). I believe these two documents along with endless resource from the blogosphere and Ed Tech articles can help any technology plan in defining why changes need to be made focusing on student learning and what students need to know for the future. Karl Fisch’s Did You Know is always a great way to kick off a School Board or parent presentation. A good tech plan should include a pedagogical theory of how the plan, and in the end the tools are going to impact student learning. This is our goal as a school, to teach students for their future and a tech plan should include a pedagogical reasoning for how these tools and new teaching and learning methods will meet those needs. Without a solid pedagogical section of the plan I believe your plan can not and should not move forward. You need to understand how this plan affects student learning and teacher teaching. It is in this section that you must have buy in from all involved stakeholders (School Board, Superintendent, Parents, and Teachers). Without everyone on board understanding how technology changes the way we teach and learn your plan already has one strike against it.

Course Management System:

I believe every school should have some sort of course management system (CMS). Whether it’s Moodle or Blackboard or something else is another argument. What is important is that this system needs to start and replace the school networks of the past. No longer should files only be accessible at school. By implementing a web based CMS you can easily move all classroom documents into a web platform where PC or Mac does not matter, where anytime anywhere access is easily attained and where assignments are easily tied to documents. Here is a run down of things I believe a CMS should allow you to do:

  • Be able to have both private and public sections
  • Be able to scale to the size of your school
  • Be able to allow for different assignment types (forums, chats, assignments, journals, etc)
  • Be able to create weekly/monthly/yearly backups (daily if you would like)
  • Be fast and reliable
  • Be easy to navigate
  • Be as cost efficient as possible (a.k.a. Most bang for your buck)

In the end your CMS should take the place of file systems in the school, and at the same time add the functionality to allow for students to interact and courses to have an online component if chosen. At the very least they should be used as a way to store and share files with a class, club, or community. The CMS begins to create a new web based information backbone for your school.

School Portal:

A school portal should be the homepage for the school. Some schools might opt to use the public side of their CMS to be their school portal while others opt for a separate system. Either way with your CMS being web based linking the two can easily be accomplished allowing for overlap.

The school portal should be a public access site (although it too can have a private side) where the larger school community comes for information. The site must be managed by someone at the school and not by central administrators. Only by having the site managed locally can the site truly reflect the happenings at the school. The use of pictures, articles, podcasts and videos can all be used as evidence of student learning on the site. I believe Drupal to be a great use for a school portal (Check out drupal-ed an install of drupal with added modules for education). It allows individual teachers to have a blog section where they can post happenings in their classroom. If a school wishes those blog posts can be promoted to the front page, making it rather easy to create a dynamic site where the content is constantly changing and up-to-date. For what I believe to be a good example of a school portal have a look at Tim Lauer’s Lewis Elementary School site. This site is a drupal install that is manged locally by Tim. Tim being the principal has local control over the look and feel of the site. In every job description I have ever seen for a principal position somewhere it usually points out that they need to communicate regularly with parents and the community. I believe that Principals (Or V.P.) should be the gatekeepers to the school portal. Does this mean new communication skills for principals? Absolutely!

Teacher Websites:

The newsletter was the communication vehicle of the 20th Century. In the 21st Century we need to move our communication to a more relevant form. Throughout the late 90’s and into 2000 we pushed teachers to create web pages. I personally cannot recall how many training sessions I did using FrontPage, Dreamweaver, or a host of other web page creation tools. You had some teachers take to making webpages while others never grasped the concept of a well constructed web page. Add to that the fact that you also need to understand File Transfer Protocol (FTP) or some other web file hosting system and you can easily see how creating a web page becomes overwhelming.

But the tools are now ready. Web 2.0 has simplified the process to the point that I believe it is time to mandate a web page for each teacher. At this point in time writing a blog post is easier and faster than writing and formating a newsletter.

If a school adopts a school portal that has both a public and private side to it (as drupal allows) then setting teachers up with a login and a simple preformatted page is quick and easy. All a teacher needs to do is know how to type and upload pictures (if they so chose).

Another option is to have a separate install for teachers to house their sites. WordPressMU (Multi User) is a great program for this use. Although technically a blogging piece of software it can easily be customized on a teacher by teacher site to run the way that teacher feels comfortable. In the end it is an simple piece of software that a school can house for use as a teacher website.

Student Network:

In the K12online pre-conference keynote Daivd Warlick talks about when students come to our schools we “cut off their tentacles.” It is time that schools understand the need for a student network that allows students to create personal learning networks and have a voice on the web.

Elgg: A social networking install that I think is showing a lot of promise. It gives the freedom that students are use to in creating groups, and having ‘friends’. The social network however can be controlled by the school and installed as part of the school’s learning network. It comes with built in file uploading capability and a built in RSS reader so that students can start creating there learning networks that reach outside other students in their grade or school, and into the world around them. As a school you can decide to keep this social network private to only your school, or open it up and allow people from outside to view, comment, and learn from your students.

WordPressMU: Another option is a WordPressMU installation that gives each student their own blog where they can customize their online learning portal. They can upload and share documents and reflect on school work. It does not have all the social networking functions of Elgg but I believe it is a great choice and well supported program.

In the end it does not matter what software platform you chose. What does matter is that you do not cut the tentacles of our students. Instead we need to create learning systems that allow those tentacles to reach where we want them to, we can push and pull tentacles in the direction we want, but if we cut them off, they do grow back and sometimes they grow back underground where we do not see them and have no idea where those tentacles are reaching to, who are they connecting to, and what they are being exposed to. Only by allowing the tentacles to grow within the school can we as an educational institution teach them how to use the network for good, how to learn from the network and how to make the network work for you.

Support:

We will cover support in a later part of the teach plan. But please note how support is a key factor that holds all of this together. The Support circle above is like the ozone layer of Earth. If it fails, is not strong enough, or has holes in it, the system has a whole fails.

Program Integration:

I mention different programs that I feel can be used to create a learning system for today’s school. By no means is this list complete, but these are programs that I have personally tried or am using in my own development of a school wide learning network that focuses on student learning. I do not believe that installing all these programs is the answer, but instead looking at the different programs and figuring out how they can best meet your school’s needs. I believe three programs from the list below can give you everything you need to create a complete learning and communication network for your school. Combined in different ways these programs can offer a customized learning platform for your school. The list is not a comparison of programs but rather a look at the functionality that each can provide for your school.

Different School setups that I believe would be successful:

Drupal: School portal and teacher websites
Moodle: Student blogs and Course Management System

WordPressMU: School portal, student network, teacher webpages
Blackboard: Course Management System

Drupal: School portal and teacher websites
Elgg: Student Social-Network
Moodle: Course Management System

These are just a few of the setups that I believe could be combined to create an Educational setting. Of course these are not all the combinations, but are some that I have thought about, have tried, or would like to try in the future.

In Part 2 we’ll take these same tools and thoughts and look at them through a school wide system lense and from an IT perspective.

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The image “http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1182/1369266627_7b57c139d0.jpg?v=0” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.The first night of the Learning 2.0 conference has come to an end…and I’ve actually finished my presentation tomorrow…if you can call it a presentation. We’re really pushing for conversations during this conference. Twitter and Ning are allowing that to happen. It’s been interesting to watch as teachers start to understand how these two sites are being used and what you can do with them. I received great feedback from the panel on the use of Twitter, and the audience seemed to enjoy it too. By the time I got home there were 15 more people waiting to be added to the account for tomorrow.

I explained to everyone about the unconference. For many this will be the first time they have ever had an opportunity to take part in an unconference. Someone twitted and called it an ‘unschedule’ session. That might be a better way to describe it. A session that is unscheduled until the participants tell us what to schedule. Some of the specialist I think are excited as one Art Teacher stood up and said “I’d love to talk about these tools with other art teachers…are there any here?” Others raised their hands and one other teacher stood us and yelled “Yes!”. That’s what were talking about. Making this conference meaningful for everyone! You design your conference, you get out of it what you put into it.

I’m frustrated with Twittercamp at the moment. It works for awhile and then just stops updating….not sure what’s wrong. We ended up having two of our GeekSquad kids sit and manually refresh the twitter page…not as cool…but still did the job.

TeckGeeks helping with TwitterThat brings me to our GeekSquad: 50 students 6-12 grade who are volunteering to help out at this conference. The great part has been watching some of the 12th graders step up and take control and become leaders. 3 of them now know the username and password to our twitter and ning site…I trust them and they are doing a great job of keeping things up-to-date. It’s so great to see students helping teachers. We trained 15 students at 2:00 on how to connect to the wireless and sign up for ning and twitter. Those 15 trained the others as they came in. Some know mac, some know pc and they are learning from each other, creating their own learning and their own network. My favorite part is when they come and ask me for help because they’re stuck. As I sit down to help solve a problem they gather around to watch and learn…at one point the teacher who’s laptop we were working on was completely pushed out…they wanted to learn, they wanted to know how to fix it. Tip #1 when planning a conference: INVOLVE THE STUDENTS!

The opening forum when well tonight. Of course how could it not when you have Will, Wes, Sheryl, Alan, Jamie, Chris, Gary, Laurie, and David on stage. I really liked this format…of course we could have gone all night. When we talk about learning 2.0 we talk about sharing our knowledge, about giving control back to our students allowing them to be apart of the learning process…engage them in process. We want our conference to reflect that. We did not want a keynote that was the “sage on the stage” we wanted a conversation….and we got one. I hope the podcast is up tomorrow to share with all of you…it’s about an hour long….and worth it.

I’m looking forward to learning….to discussion and to expanding my own knowledge on what Learning 2.0 mean in this new digital connected, highly collaborative world as the conference continues.

[tags]learn2cn[/tag]

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Today I had the pleasure of doing a short presentation for our IB Theory of Knowledge class. I was invited in to give a lesson on how knowledge is changing in the 21st century. My first thought was “How do I tell students knowledge has changed, when they already know that?”

I set up 3 Skype accounts for students to login to and keep notes on. I did not want to only talk about how knowledge is changing I wanted them to experience it. To feel the power of collective note taking, the power of multiple perspectives on a subject or theory. The 3 Skype accounts where for 17 students making them anonymous. I figured that if they were  anonymous that the students would fell free to write more about what they were thinking, willing to take a risk and stretch their thinking.

In the end the laptops didn’t have Skype installed (it’s part of our image but these were Science laptops and didn’t have the new image on them). But I did at the same time podcast the conversation (to be posted later) telling students that in this new world of knowledge, not only do you acquire it, but you then publish it for others to use as an information nod as well.

I used George Siemens Connectivism Theory as a starting point and we went from there. I put together a little Wiki page for the students so as they do their homework assignment tonight they have the links that we talked about today.

So here I was in the middle of teaching students about how knowledge has changed. How it is the connections that the Internet allows us to make that is changing knowledge and information acquisition, and at the same time thinking about the conversation that has been sparked by a recent techlearning post of mine.

If you’re out of the loop on the conversation here’s a recap:

1. Fear Factor
2. Teachers & Technology – a rant!
3. Why teachers Don’t Use Web 2.0 – an historical perspective
4. Why teachers Use Web 2.0
5. Stager, Logo and Web 2.0
6. Web 2 is Like Logo?

And now this post.

There are a lot of great quotes that I could take from all of these posts and they have all made me think.

First off….logo? Seriously…I know the program was popular but I never saw it in school. I never knew it was made to be an educational program and I have no experience with it. Now, Stager takes me on a little history of educational technology and what a great lesson, but at the end of the day, like most teachers. I really don’t care. What I want to know is how is this going to affect my teaching and student learning today?

Warlick makes an interesting observation in his Web 2 is Like Logo? post where he finds that neither I nor himself used the phrase Web 2.0 in our posts and it wasn’t until Stager’s post that the conversation shifted to a Web 2.0 focus.

In my original post I talk about tools, tools that I feel could be using in education. They are not educational tools, but then again neither are Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, but they seem to be used in education a lot. We loaded these tools because if teachers were open to exploring them, we wanted them to feel free to explore, to use, and to change the way teaching happens and knowledge is acquired. Today I was excited to show a teacher just how Skype could be used (or any IM application for that matter). Instant Messaging is not Web 2.0…in fact I think it would pretty much fall under the Web 1.0 heading. But neither is the point. My real point is that this is a tool that students use, that students know, and that I believe if used properly in the classroom could have and impact on student learning…or at the very least student note taking.

Downes writes:

When I speak to teachers these days, I don’t tell them how to improve the way they teach their students. I talk to them about how they can improve the way they teach themselves.

I think this is where we need to begin. After giving my little talk today to the 11th graders I helped them sign up with our Moodle installation for the class. It was interesting to watch them learn. To watch them help each other out and watch them teach themselves and each other. This came through in Warlick’s Rant as well. You can not introduce these new connectivist tools and not change the way you teach. By connectivist tools I mean a computer with an Internet connection.

It’s not about Web 2.0 it’s about learning! It’s about changing the way we all learn and then as good teachers do take those skills and teach others. If our teachers are still learning in traditional ways they will continue to teach in traditional ways. However if you’ve ever been with a teacher that has learned these new literacy skills, who has embraced them and seen their power like all of us, then they teach them to their students.

We are finishing up our third week of school and the 5th grade teachers who I worked closely with last year have already set all their students up with blogs, are starting to teach RSS and are planning a unit on having their students create blog grading rubrics. Why? Because they see how these new literacies change teaching and learning. They are excited about it and in return the students are too. Some students have blogged every day so far even though they’ve only been given one blogging assignment…and it’s not about blogging…it about writing at this point. One student has written 3 chapters of a story on his blog…that is writing done outside of class, on his own.

We need to understand how connecting to this wider and deeper body of knowledge changes our classrooms. It’s not about Web 2.0. It’s not about where we were in education, nothing has ever been accomplished by looking backwards. We need to focus on teaching teachers these new literacy skills so they can in turn teach students.

You can not teach that which you do not know! The kids are ready…today after reading Siemen’s Connectivism Theory paper I asked the 11th graders what they thought. One student blurted out “I agree!”

They’re ready…we need to get over our fears, get messy, and get with it or like everyone I’ve quoted here says: School will become irrelevant. And that should be our biggest fear of all.

[tags]David Warlick, Gary Stager, Stephen Downes, Miguel Guhlin, Web 2.0, education[/tags]

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An e-mail from a student I had last year and has moved (Posted with permission).

He’s in 9th Grade:

We have alot more academic freedom here, and there are
several computer cliubs that I can choose from, but the school has put some
pretty unreasonable restrictions on computer usage. I’m starting to feel a
bit tech-deprived. Here are the rules on the library computers (which are
about the only ones that work right now)
1. You cannot download software
2. You cannot modify the computers
3. No games
4. No inappropriate content
    The second two rules are fine, but the first two, I think, are stifling
student creativity on the computers. For one, none of the computers have
Firefox, and they’re extremely slow. The first rule prevents you from
downloading Firefox, or any other cool programs, and the second rule
disallows us from messing with the configurations in IE to make it faster.
I’m hoping they’ll let us protect our S: Drive folders with Novell options.

What happens when we put them in a bubble, when we do not allow them to experiment (see post below)?

[tags]21st Century Learning[/tags]

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I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about fear and the fear some educators grown-ups have about technology. When did we stop exploring? When did it all of a sudden become dangerous to click on something on our computer that we really don’t know what might happen? Is it do to viruses? Or are we just afraid that the computer will blow up?

At what age do we loose that sense of exploration, that adventure of that we might not know what will happen and because we can not predict the outcome we do not take the risk?

Or maybe it has nothing to do with fear? Maybe it has to do with experience. We just don’t have the experience with this new technology to have the comfort level that allows us to explore.

I mean how many of us got to grow up playing with computers like we did legos?

This technology causes fear in us because we do not understand it. We did not, like this little one above, experience the computer as a way to explore. No, by the time we were introduced to the computer we were already at a stage were we were afraid that if we hit the wrong button, or click the wrong thing, that the computer might blow up. Of course we all heard the horror stories of of friends losing data, and viruses taking over machines, and that of course made us more cautious. Is this part of the reason our student’s are so much more advanced than we are as a generation?

My job, and I believe the job of every educational technology person is to help people get over this fear. To encourage them to explore these amazing machines. This year at my school we’ve loaded some very cool programs onto every teacher computer, and created shortcuts on the desktop so they had easy access to programs such as Skype, Google Earth, Second Life, and Scratch just to name a few. Yet I wonder how many teachers haven’t even clicked on one of these shortcuts to see what happens. Most haven’t even deleted the shortcuts even though they never plan to use them, or don’t know what to do.

I have two more trainings coming up this next week, and the first thing I am going to ask all my teachers to do is to click on something they have always wondered about, always thought “What would happen if….”. I will be in the room to pull them out of the way if their computer explodes. But I want to try and bring them to a place that allows them to explore their machines, allows them for just a minute to be supported as they explore their new technology. We don’t explore enough, we know the programs we know and that’s what we know. As Educational Technology Leaders we must support teachers, parents, and students to expand there thinking on what computers can do. To, like this father, hold them up and all them to bang away for away and see what happens. Without the support they will never do it, they do not know this tool the way a 10 year old does, we are immigrants in a foreign land. We go where we are comfortable, where others like us go to gather: Word, Excel, Publisher.

It’s time to push, it’s time to expand our thinking and it’s time to support educators so that they too feel like they can explore these new tools, and think about new ways to change teaching and learning.

Encourage them to click on something they’ve never clicked on before…and just see what happens.

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I had a lively conversation the other day with some Ed Tech folks on what students should be able to do and access at school. This of course is one of my favorite topics with Middle School students…they are about the only age brave enough and stand up and say…”Your generation has it wrong.”

Crazy Kids…don’t they know we know best!

But when we talk about information and allowing access to it at our schools, can we truly raise our students in a bubble? Can we afford to spend our resources on trying to keep them in and keep the bad stuff out rather than on having open and honest talks about the information that is out there? I have had a number of talks on teenagers’ favorite subject…music. I love to debate them on the fact that downloading illegal music is illegal. I don’t care if it’s easy…it’s still illegal. Their point…it should be free..therefore I’m not paying for it. It should be free is the reason they download. They only know free music, it’s always been free whether it really has been or not and they don’t understand why I’d pay 99 cents to download a song.

And it’s not just music, we debate them on myspace, on facebook, on youtube. We try and protect them from this information that we do not understand, do not think is educationally appropriate. Large companies sue youtube to remove their content yet more is posted. We are fighting a loosing battle. They want information to be free and they want access to it. We lock them up for 8 hours 180 days a year in a bubble, where we pretend these sites don’t exist. Where we say these sites have no educational value. We bring them into our schools and put them in bubbles…so that they don’t hurt themselves or are hurt by others.

There is only one thing wrong with bubbles….they always pop!

…and then what? What happens when they graduate and go off into the world? Nothing actually because for the other 16 hours a day they live in that free information world. They’ve built it, use it, own it, and continue to create it….and keep shaking there heads at me saying, “You don’t get it.”

Do we get it? Does education understand that they are learning without us, that this new world in which our students live is teaching them more than what we can inside the bubble? Inside a textbook that does not hyperlink, does not move, and does not engage?

We can not teach our students inside a bubble, we can not pretend that these sites do not exist. By pretending they do not exist we make them more powerful. Students at our school can watch YouTube videos and they do quite often. Do we have an occasional problem? Yes! But would we still have the occasional problem if we kept them in that bubble? Absolutely! I’ve yet to work at a school that the students did not find a way to bypass a filter, whether to bring content in or send content out. But by acknowledging the content we can start conversations around it, students watch videos that are educational as well as entertaining…and they get ideas of how to create their own videos. Watching an inappropriate video is still watching an inappropriate video the punishment is the still the same whether we give them access to it or not.

Truthfully, I don’t think we give our students enough credit. We feel as though we can’t trust them with this free information. We’re afraid of what they might do, watch, or see that they couldn’t do at other times outside of school. Teachers have made the argument, “Well, they do what they want at home as long as they don’t do it as school.” And that’s exactly what’s we’re headed for….students who stay home and learn rather than climb inside the bubble and wait for 8 hours to get out.

Pop the bubble…start conversations….and engage in learning!

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Thank you to everyone who commented and read my last post…the comments meant a lot to me (they always do) I guess that’s part of the reason why we all blog…that feeling we’re not alone. That we’re not insane in thinking the way we think…feel the way we feel. I still remember reading Warlick for the first time and saying to myself “Thank God! There are other’s just as crazy as me!”

So now that I’m focused in on what I want need to accomplish this year. It’s time to get my ducks in a row. Why is it when ducks fly they fly in a V formation, yet when they swim it’s in a straight line?

It has to do with resistance…and when it comes to implementing new technologies….you better know if you need a V or a line.

Tomorrow I have the privilege of handing out 42 laptops to teachers who filled out a form last year basically turning over their lives to me for the coming year (although it was worded must better than that 😉 ). So the past couple of days I’ve been getting my ducks in a row so I can make sure we support these new laptoppers the way they need to be supported.

Here is our plan:

Step 1: Each person will meet with me or one of the other Educational Technology (ET) support staff and fill out their Individual Educational Technology Plan (IETP). Think about the individual plans you fill out for students…only for teachers focused on technology. Each teacher will choose two or three NETs for Teachers standards to focus on for the coming year. We have a nice little IETP form that will be used to track their progress on meeting these standards throughout the year.

Step 2: We will create Laptop Support Teams where groups of 4 or 5 will meet with an ET twice a month. These groups will be used to trouble shoot problems, discuss ideas, and help to form a support group for each individual as they learn how this new technology affects teaching and learning in their classroom.

Step 3: Throughout the year we will be collecting data from this group and sharing it with our stake holders on a quarterly basis.

So that’s it. Of course there are many other things we’ll be doing too. Like holding after school technology sessions for teachers, and 10 minute tech tips during staff meetings…and of course meeting with all teachers and supporting them in the use of technology in their classrooms. This is just one part of a much larger project that is going on this year…but it’s a key part as getting these ducks in a row is just the beginning of a larger technology vision.

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