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A blog post I put out to this year’s COETAILers….cross posted here

Start
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Ready or not a new school year is upon us and the CoETaIL Program continues to expand. This will be the second year of CoETaIL under this site and structure and the expansion of the program to international schools continues to grow. Here’s a list of schools and cohorts and where they are in the program.

Taipei American School Cohort: Beginning course 4: Technology: A Catalyst for Learning

BKK Cohort: Beginning Course 2: 21st Century Literacy Ideas, Questions, and Issues

EARCOS Cohort: Beginning Course 3:Visual Literacy: Effective Communicators and Creators

We’re also excited to see three new cohorts get started this Fall.

Yokohama International School

American Embassy School:

Zurich International School

All together that’s about 150 active CoETaILers to start the school year with the potential for other cohorts to come online throughout the year.

Get Connected:

Connected Teacher
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Throughout the CoETaIL program we talk about being connected, creating your personal learning network and using the educators connected around the world to learn from. As CoETaILers you have a unique opportunity to connect with and learn from each other. There are many different ways to do this.

Twitter:

In your Google Docs you’ll find a Google Spreadsheet where you can add your Twitter URL. Once you do that you’ll be added to the CoETaIL twitter list where you can follow all the CoETaILers that are on Twitter. Here’s the link:

http://twitter.com/#!/jutecht/lists/coetail-asia

Simply click on the link and follow. You’ll then be able to follow all the CoETaILers, learn from them, bounce ideas off them, and have them be part of your learning network.

Groups and Forums on the Site:

On the CoETaIL site we’ve given you ways to communicate and connect with others as well. There are many different groups that you can join as well as forums that might have answers to some of your most pressing of questions about this site, the program, or ideas to use in your own classroom.

Get involved:

At the end of the day it’s about being engaged in the conversation and being involved in the community. What you get out of this course and how it changes your life, your teaching, your perspective is up to you. You’ll get out of this program what you put into it. Start creating new habits around how you learn, who you connect with, and how you engage in your personal learning network. Making a conscious effort to start the year off right will help and keep you motivated all year long.

Learn your way around the site:

The CoETaIL site is running the latest WordPress Multi-User installation with the Buddypress plugin which makes it a very robust social network. There are other great features of this social-network like the ability to friend someone, send private messages and even update your status much like Facebook. Take some time in these beginning weeks to click and find your way around the site. Some updates:

– New Themes have been added

– New Plugins have been added…including a Google+ plugin!

Take some time to set up your blog and get it looking great for the new year.

We’re here to help:

Help
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Kim and I are excited to be adding Dana Watts as an administrator running the American Embassy School Cohort. Kim and I worked with Dana at ISB and she was a graduate of the first CoETaIL cohort two years ago. Since then she’s left ISB to join AES in the role of Middle School Technology Facilitator where she’s spearheading a lot of new initiatives at the school including running their CoETaIL program.

Know that we are here to help, yes the technology can be frustrating at times, and yes it doesn’t always work the way it should, but that’s what we’re here for. You can e-mail us, ask a question in the forum or catch us online and we’ll do the best we can to help you out. The CoETaIL community is very supportive so I highly recommend asking a question in the forums or to a group. An e-mail to use is just one set of eyes on the problem. By posting to the forum you’ll get many more people thinking and helping you out.

We’ll see you online!

I for one am looking forward to a great year of learning from all of you. What I love about teaching these courses is that I learn way more from all of you and the great stuff you’re doing in your classrooms then I could ever imagine. This is a great community to belong to and I’m looking forward to learning along with you.

 

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When we live in a connected world we have a personal stream of information that is comforting to us. Take this COETAIL participant for example who details his wonderful Sunday immersed in his personal information stream. 

I’m sure many of us have been there….relaxing on the couch yet totally immersed in information…information that we want because it’s relevant to us at that time and we’ve chosen that particular information.

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Is he really alone?

Now think of our students with their iPhones, Blackberries, iPods, Laptops, PlayStation 3s, and every other device that they interact with. All of these devices allow them to create and tap into their personal stream of information. A stream that they have created be it friends, news, updates, or status. They’ve decided who they want to connect to, and who they want to learn from. 

Then they go to school, they walk into classrooms and the door closing behind them signals a disconnect from the personal stream…you see their heads go down, their body language shows they’ve switched off and for the next 90 minutes they sit there listening to you talk about your information, not theirs.

You can be the most dynamic teacher in your school but how do you compete with a personal information stream that is waiting just beyond the door of the classroom? A stream that everyone knows is waiting there to be tapped into again. 

I think of the conferences I’ve been at where participants….mostly teachers….get frustrated when the Internet connection goes down…why…because they’re disconnected from their own personal stream and that’s just unacceptable at a conference….otherwise known as their classroom.

Yet we ask kids to do it everyday and to not complain.

The problem with education is we teachers can not compete with the personal information stream. It’s a battle we will never win. 

So the only option is not to compete with it, but to embrace it, use it, foster it, and acknowledge that it exists.

Once we stop competing against the stream and embrace it, a world of opportunities emerges. A new world full of connections, passions, and possibilities.

(My first post from my new iPad2. I start the WordPress app and it asks if it can use my location…sure….now where is it going to say that this was written? 32,000 feet over the south china sea…cause that would be kind of cool!)

The last couple of weeks have been just a whirlwind and I have about two weeks to go before life slows down again. I’ve talked before about finding balance and right now I’m way out of balance. To much work and not enough down time isn’t good for anyone.

The explosion of the COETAIL program is mostly to blame (along with my inability to say No). I’m excited to see so many teachers excited and changing their classroom practices because of this program. Just when I think the stress of reading some 200 blog posts isn’t worth it I go in and observe a 5th grade teacher using a chat-room to enhance the face to face discussion in the classroom. A fantastic lesson where the lesson and the tool were well matched and created an engaging learning opportunity for both teacher and students.

20110423-011041.jpgI also decided this year that all this wasn’t enough and was the assistant coach to our boys softball team. Part of the reason….other than I love this sport no matter the size of the ball….was to force myself to spend time off the computer. That worked until I found an app that allowed me to not only score our games but to scout the competition at the same time. Next thing I know my two loves (other than my wife) are combined. A big thank you to EARCOS who bought me an iPad2 for my contributions to the Learning 2.0 conferences the past four years…the timing of the scoring app, softball and my iPad arriving made for a great week of softball in Jakarta at our tournament.

There is a lot I’ve been thinking about lately and hopefully in a couple weeks after I find some balance again I’ll be in the right mind to get my thoughts out here. But for now this will have to do for my first blog post from the iPad as the landing gear just went down as we make our decent into Taipei for another great day of learning here with teachers from Taipei American School in the COETAIL cohort.

I’m a few hours away from calling a taxi and starting the 17 hour trip to Portland, Oregon (via Seattle of course) for the ITSC11 Conference e. I’ll be doing three sessions. Blended Classrooms, Blogs as E-Portfolios, and 10 Digital Tools for Digital Educators.

It’s this last session that I always have the hardest time with. What 10 digitals tools should educators know about? There are so many and depending on the attendees, you never know what people really want. That’s why this session usually ends up being a great discussion starting with “What do you want to know about?” and off we go.

As I’ve been thinking about the session I keep coming back to how important RSS is to the web. What seems like a such a simple piece of the larger web, this little bit of technology pushes and pulls information around the web behind the sense so gracefully that you probably use it in one form or another everyday without realizing it. Yet, if you can understand it, it becomes a very powerful way to push and pull information around the web where you want it to go. 

Apple, iTunes and Podcasters have made a living off of RSS. Ever wonder why most podcasts are on a blog? Because blogs come with RSS technology built in and iTunes Podcasts run off of RSS feeds. When you “Subscribe” to a podcast in iTunes you’re just subscribing to that podcasts RSS feed. iTunes simply delivers the content to your computer. 

RSS is a push and pull technology. It allows you to push and pull content around the web with ease. Many people don’t use RSS Readers anymore with them being replaced by Twitter streams, yet the use of RSS goes beyond just pulling content to you.

Here are some ways that I’m using RSS at my school and in my professional life to make things easier and to tie things together. 

COETAIL:

COETAIL is a 5 graduate class certificate program that Kim and I run here in Asia (more on the explosion of this program soon). For each cohort we run we set up a blog such as this one I set up for the cohort in Taipei. Part of the problem I was having was when I found content to share with the participants I needed a way to push that information to this blog without going there, logging in and writing a blog post. Using the FeedWordPress Plugin that takes the content in an RSS feed and turns it into a post I now have a way to pull information I share on the web to the site.

Next was finding an RSS feed that was simple and quick and didn’t take much time to use. I decided to use Tumblr as a way to quickly gather web clipping I wanted to save all in one spot. Next I came up with a tagging system. Most blogging systems and even social bookmarking sites have an RSS feed for every tag. Tumblr does and it also has a fantastic Chrome Browser (one of the 10 tools) extension that works great. Now I have a quick way to get information to the different cohorts. Once I find something I want to share I click the Tumblr extension which automatically grabs the URL and the title of the webpage I’m on. I quickly add a description, click on the advance button and add my tags. If I want the information to go to the Taipei site I use the tag coetail@tas. If I want the information to got to the ISB site I use coetail@isb. If I want it to go to all the coetail blogs I simply use the tag coetail. 

Within seconds I can push this content out to the web on Tumblr and then pull it back into different blogs based on tags. 

ISB Blogs:

Using this same idea, students have to write a reflection about their GCW Trips (Global Citizen’s Week) that we went on last week. The trip leaders don’t have all the student blog addresses and we want the students to own the reflection, we want it to become part of their learning/eporfolio here at ISB. Using the FeedWordPress Plugin on our WordPress MultiSite install I created a tag for each trip. Students write their reflection on their blog and tag the blog post with the specific tag for their trip. I then set up a blog for each trip, grabbed the RSS feed for that specific trip tag and pulled all the blog posts into one blog that teachers can easily read and grade.

Here’s the idea:

URL to sitewide tag: http://blogs.isb.ac.th/blog/tag/gcwmekok/

The Feed for the tag: http://blogs.isb.ac.th/blog/tag/gcwmekok/feed

Where all these posts end up: http://blogs.isb.ac.th/gcw-mekok-village/

One great feature of the FeedWordPress Plugin is you can have the link to the post send you back to the original source. So if you want to leave a comment on a student blog post click on the title and it will take you to that student’s blog where you can leave the comment. Again keeping the student in control of their content.

This setup could be used in a number of ways. You could create a class blog that basically acts like an RSS reader. Students blog about your class, tag their blogs for your class with a specific term and you and the rest of the world get all the information in one spot, yet the students retains ownership of the content.

How about this….every tag in Diigo has an RSS feed: http://www.diigo.com/rss/user/Jutecht/qrcodes

You could connect your Diigo account to your Twitter account so that every time you share a link on Twitter it pushes that link to Diigo where it’s bookmarked (directions here). Once there you can push the RSS feed of the specific tag you use where ever you want it. In a Moodle, on a Blog, a Google Site…..anything that reads an RSS feed could then display this information. Think about this for a second…..one click to Twitter and you push content to Diigo which pushes it out to a blog. One click….three sites get the information and you share with others across networks. 

I’m sure you can think of countless other ways to use this in the classroom….it really is a technology worth learning and is a basis for many things on the web today.

Here at ISB we get next week off for a well deserved fall break. Now most normal people here in Bangkok will head to one of the numerous amazing beaches and relax and recharge. To bad I’m not normal.

My next 10 days: BKK – TPE – NRT – MSP – DSM – MSP – NRT – TPE – BKI – KUL – BKK

(I’m sure there’s a game in there somewhere)

Yep…11 airport stops in 10 days, with a lot of presenting in between. Let me break it down for you.

TPE: Taipei

In about 2 hours I head to the airport and off to Taipei American School to wrap up the first course of the COETAIL program I’m teaching there. Tomorrow we’ll meet from 9 – 6 reflecting on the course, sharing projects, talking about PLNs and setting up Twitter accounts. The second half of the day we’re going to have a K12online LAN party so get ready for some new educators on Twitter and be looking for our podcast of the LAN party sometime next week (I’ll have plenty of time to edit on the planes).

DSM: Des Monies, Iowa

My next stop takes me to the middle of the good ole’ USA to work with administrators and Scott McLeod. I’m a bit worried as what I’ll be talking about includes an open web and students publishing openly in order for us to teach them to be safe. The idea of ‘open’ usually doesn’t go over to well in the State and people look at me like I’m a freak. The fear factor is so high around student’s publishing that is truly breaks my heart…and from someone on the outside looking in it looks really bad.

My work with Scott takes me to Minneapolis where I’ll fly out of.

BKI: Kota Kanabalu, Malayasia

Last stop takes me to the EARCOS Leadership Conference. By far the roughest part of the trip (NOT!). I’ll be talking with administrators in the South East Asia Region about technology and were do we go from here. International Schools here in Asia are rolling out 1:1 laptop programs quickly and by 2012 (a date I set 3 years ago) there will be a clear line of those that are and those that are not 1:1 schools.

So, if my blog posts come in waves over the next week it’s because I was able to do a lot of thinking while flying just short of 20,000 miles. 

Let the fun and travel begin!

 

Sometimes there are teachers you just need to celebrate…..and that is this blog post (and the next).

This week is only two days old but I’m already excited at what teachers who are finishing our COETAIL course are producing. The final course has them implementing everything we’ve learned in the four classes before into units or lessons within their content area. It also calls for us, the instructors, (Kim, Dennis, and I) to observer a lesson where they implement everything they’ve learned and using this rubric have a discussion with them about what we observed in their lesson and room.

The last two days have been even more special in the fact that I was able to observer a 3rd grade classroom and an IB High Level English class (11th grade). I wish everyone had the opportunity to see the whole spectrum of learning as I do.

Monday I sat in a 3rd grade classroom and watched, talked to, and just smiled in amazement of what happens when we let students be creative with their own learning. I’ve talked about Mike Jessee’s classroom many times on this blog (here and here). In my opinion, he’s an amazing teacher that gets inquiry learning at a level that I myself struggle with. I’ve never witnessed a teacher that has been able to freely give control over to students like Mike does. I think his most favorite phrase is, “I don’t know…what do you think?”

His lesson on Monday was not the original lesson that his project outlines called for. No, the project called for students to create VoiceThreads, or to keep working on the VoiceThreads they stared in earlier science units. There was only one problem…when Mr. Jessee told the students they were working on VoiceThread the student’s energy disappeared. Wait a minute…they didn’t want to use this cool tool? Why not?

“It allows me to be creative”

“I can show what I learned and create my slides the way I want to”

“I created a VoiceThread, but it didn’t allow me to show what I know so I wanted to make a Notebook file that allowed me to show what I know…but I linked it to my VoiceThread…see…watch”

Yes…those are direct quotes from 3rd grade students on Monday as I watched them work on their SmartBoard Notebook files.

You see….when Mike saw the energy disappear from the kids eyes when he mentioned VoiceThread he asked them what they would rather do….without hesitation they asked if they could use Notebook instead. The students wanted to create their knowledge not just talk about it.

Here is where Mr. Jessee went wrong. He allowed the kids to create Notebook files for their Student-Led Conferences (Here’s one page from each student). Students had the creative bug and they wanted to be creative…they had the freedom to create slides of who they were as learners and now they wanted to create slides of who there were as scientists.

Mr. Jessee gave students the choice of creating a VoiceThread or a Notebook file. All but one student created a Notebook file. The one student (quoted above) is a verbal student…he can explain his learning better verbally then he can through writing. The problem is the one picture in VoiceThread didn’t allow him to “show” his creativity so he created a Notebook file as well….and with a little help from Mr. Jessee he was able to link it to his VoiceThread.

Mr. Jessee listened to his students and didn’t realize until they spoke up that he was actually standing in their way of being creative.

On Monday I saw what the students were creating. They’ll be posted soon on the class blog, and what they have created is so individual, so amazing, so 3rd grade that I was literally in awe.

I watched students check their spelling using the built in dictionary app on their MacBooks. I saw students literally draw….on the screen….a crayfish. I saw another student choose a background that was blue and green because, “It’s like their habitat”.

There’s only one problem with the project….the kids don’t want to stop! They have one more day to finish and they don’t want to stop creating their learning…in a way that represents them.

This is what we’re talking about….allowing students to be creative, getting out of their way, listening to them, and just allowing them to create their own learning and show us what they have learned through that creation.

The data that Mr. Jessee will be able to get out of these personally created masterpieces is more than any test would have told him. Misconceptions, big moments, and knowledge….and recorded individually and posted for the world to see (soon).

This is it….this is technology being used in amazing and authentic ways in allowing students to create and show their knowledge. This is why every student should have access to a laptop when they need it to learn…even in 3rd grade….we need to give student access to these amazing creative tools and then get out of their way and watch them create masterpieces!

As our first Certificate of Educational Technology and Information Literacy program (COETAIL) draws to a close here at ISB educators are starting to put the finishing touches on their projects for the 5th and final course. They’ve been working all semester on putting into practice what we’ve been learning about the first 4 courses. They have been paired with a mentor (Kim, Dennis, and I) to help them create a unit or lesson to use in their classroom. We then schedule a time to go in and observer them using this rubric that the three of us created (worth checking out) based on the enduring understanding of all of the courses.

Some of these projects have just blown me away. Take this Multi Cultural Games Wiki created by two of our PE teachers who have taken the course Andy and Kerry (check out their blogs to see how they’re using cell phones in PE Class as well). Students are outlining, filming and sharing cultural games from around the world….and Andy and Kerry invite your students to do the same and add to the wiki. They do a fantastic job of outlining for other educators the idea behind the wiki and how to get started in this youtube video.

These are two PE teachers to follow and pass on to your own PE Department. Andy next year will be moving into the Athletic Directors role and with me moving to the High School next year, we’re already talking about ways to use technology even more to enhance our physical education program.

Next up is a very tech savvy 1st Grade teacher who is finding ways to use the technology in his room to help teach a life cycles unit in science. Vu was one of the first teachers I connected with moving here to ISB a year ago and he continues to find ways to use technology with his 1st graders. Using technology in the early primary grades is where I struggle most in my own understanding. Vu’s been a great resource for me to go to, bounce ideas off of, and someone who is willing to explore crazy ideas on new uses of technology in the classroom. He’s created a blog for their life cycles unit here, and has found ways to take some amazing pictures with the document camera and digital microscope in his class. His students are now all working on VoiceThreads and should have those posted soon. He’s currently looking to connect with other classes around the world on this project. You can find the details here, and if you’d like to be a part of this or know a primary teacher who might be interested please contact him. Check out this Cotton Stainer rolling over…1st graders love this stuff!

I’ll be sharing more projects in the coming weeks as these “students” finish up their projects.

The COETAIL program has been a huge success at our school with about 50 teachers completing the 5 course 15 graduate credit certificate program. We’ve already started the next cohort which has 20 teachers signed up. The model that we’ve created here is starting to spread as well. Taipei American School will be starting their first cohort next fall and Kim and I are working with SUNY and EARCOS to find away to try and offer the program online (more info coming soon!).

In the end this program is changing the pedagogy at our school in small but noticeable ways. 50 teachers with a deeper understanding of both the technology and the pedagogy behind it are now looking for new and innovative ways to use these tools in their classroom.

Brian Grenier wrote a blog post back in 2007 that I think I missed where he asks the question how do you write a blog post?

Miguel Guhlin just wrote a great post in response to Brian’s thoughts. In my COETAIL course yesterday we had a great discussion around how blogging was going for those in the class. All of them just 5 weeks into blogging. It was interesting to hear that many of them say blogging as publishing. That they had a lot of drafts waiting to be published but they wanted them to be “perfect” or “publishable”.

“The thought that other can read this, that a future employee can read this makes me want it to be publishable.”

It was great to listen to them talk among themselves and the different feelings they had about being a blogger. They asked me what I thought and along with Miguel talking about how he writes a blog post I thought I’d share my thoughts.

1. Blog topics are all around you
You are passionate about something whether teaching, technology, your kids or your car. Be passionate and writing is easy. If your not passionate about the post, or idea, you’ll know cause you just won’t do it.

This makes it hard when a teacher (like me) asks you to blog about something you might not be passionate about. That makes blogging an assignment….not real blogging. Real blogging is about you….about your thoughts, your feelings, your ideas…..the blogging you do for classroom, is just classwork.

2. Write down ideas or topics
At least two or three times a day I think to myself “that’s a blog topic” and for a while I would sit down to write a blog post and not be able to remember what it was that spurred that moments thought. So I’ve started writing blog topic ideas down. I use the stickies app on my MacBook and Google Tasks via a Chrome extension that lets me quickly jot down topics. I also have a notebook in my backpack for those times when a computer isn’t near to jot stuff down in. Everything from grocery lists, to blog topics. Lastly, I use my iPhone where I have a page of notes that are blog topics. No, you don’t have to have as many places as I do, but I know those are the spots I look for when I have time. Not all ideas make it to a full blog post, some get crossed out, others get folded into each other. It’s the brainstorm phase of writing….just like we teach kids. 🙂

3. Keeping web pages organized
http://welkerswikinomics.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2008/11/diigo.pngThis came up in class yesterday. How do you keep all those sites open, or organize that you want to talk about in a blog post? In Firefox I use an extension called Tabloc that allows me to ‘Lock’ a tab (still looking for a good one for Chrome is anyone has one!). So if my browser closes or I need to restart those tabs that are locked, stay safe and saved. I also have gotten better at tagging web pages in Diigo and using the highlight features as well. Social bookmarking takes time to understand and time to find out how tagging works and how to use it for you. I have a system that works for me and I’m going on 5 years without using bookmarks within my browser…..everything is in Diigo and Delicious (which are connected so when I save to Diigo it auto-saves it to Delicious….a perfect backup system!)

4. Find a blogging interface that works for you.
There are many different blogging interfaces that you can use to actually write your blog post in. I’m a huge fan, and honestly would have a hard time blogging without ScribeFire (Firefox Add-on). I’ve tired to blog just using WordPress and visually it just doesn’t do it for me. I know that many people use the Flock Web Browser and find the built in blogging application very good (I think it’s my second favorite). Scribefire is the only reason I still use Firefox. My day to day browsing has moved to Chrome and I find that I don’t blog as much because it means going someplace else to write. That’s what I love about ScribeFire, it’s just there, in your browser waiting for you to start writing.

Take time to try out a couple blogging applications and see if one fits you and your style. You gotta be comfortable with your flow of thought, writing, and idea process otherwise writing will become a chore not a pleasure.

5. Finding your Flow
In the end….I think it’s about finding your flow. Some people blog at the same time every day. I know Kim Cofino (cause we talk about this kind of stuff in the office) does most of her blogging on the weekend, because that’s what works for her. I found that I need it cool, I blog better, ideas flow when I’m in a cooler temperature. So I either blog in my home office with the A/C on or here on the couch with a fan blowing on me to keep me cool. I didn’t realize this was an issue for a long time here in Bangkok. It’s only been about 6 months that I realize I don’t write because I’m uncomfortable, hot, sticky, and not in a thinking mode.

Find your flow, find which time/day works for you, what place, which application. Take time to try things out. I’m constantly looking for another blogging application to replace ScribeFire and just haven’t found one that I like better…that enhances my flow of ideas and process of writing.

6. Write to your community ~ Know your audience
A blog website whether you like it or not is about branding. Your audience want’s to know what they are going to get when they go to your site. You know what to expect when you go to CNN, BBC, NYTimes, TechCrunch, Mashable, etc. Your blog needs to have a focus. That doesn’t mean you can’t go off topic once in awhile, but the majority of your blog posts should be to a specific audience. I focus broadly on education and specifically on educational technology. But I also talk about my love of baseball and travel as well……after all it is my site. 😉

So that’s it…find your flow, find your audience and blogging can be enjoyable.

As our fourth COETAIL course (Certificate of Educational Technology and Information Literacy) here at ISB is drawing to a close. The students (33 teachers at our school) have one more course to complete next semester. The last hurdle in Flickr ID: SlipStreamJCgetting their certificate. The last course calls on them to overhaul one of their units of study and embed our TAIL (Technology and Information Literacy) standards within the unit in authentic ways.
During this fourth course we talked about ways to manage technology in the classroom and had the teachers add their thoughts to a VoiceThread to share with others. So I thought I’d share the VoiceThread here as a testimony to the learning happening within the four courses so far. I’m looking forward to working closely with some of them next semester as they implement their new units with our TAIL standards embedded. The course have been co-taught by myself, Dennis Harter, Kim Cofino, and Chad Bates.

It’s been a whirlwind of a couple weeks and I find myself…yet again out of balance spending more time on work and “projects” and less time ‘disconnected’ with friends, family, my guitar, and just plain down time.

Kim and I have just finished up the first of five course we’re running here at our school for a Certificate of Educational Technology and Information Literacy. Kim has a great post on the course we just finished as Chad Bates and I currently work on putting the next one together.

The feedback has been positive on our first course. When we first introduced the 40+ staff members to wikis, blogs, RSS, Google Docs, and Skype all in 2 weeks (not recommended) there was system overload. To much to fast….but some things just need to be done. By the end of the course most of the participants are feeling more confident and those that just a few weeks ago were ready to throw their laptops out the window are writing me e-mails looking forward to the next course.

What excites me is our next course will not focus on the tools…we’ve already covered that, but we will now focus on why and how these tools change the teaching and learning landscape.

One question that came up in the final day of our last session was one of balance and how do you keep from getting sucked into always being online and connected.

The problem is that Kim, Julie Lindsay (who Skyped in), and myself are not the best examples to talk about balance. It is something I think we all struggle with in life. Technology or not, balancing work and life has been a battle through the ages.

I was talking with Chrissy about this the other day and I think one thing that helps is arriving at a point were the technology works for you instead of you feeling like you are working for the technology.

I feel like I can make technology do what I want, but I have a skill set that allows me to do that. I can pick the right tool, set up a site, send this here, that there, and be more productive with the tools. The tools work for me…I don’t work for them.

How do you get to this point? I think it’s just using the tools. It’s much like anything…practice, practice, practice.

I think about playing the guitar which I’m slowly learning (part of my disconnect time). I practice, and practice, and then one day….it actually sounds like a song. Not sure when it happened, or what I did, but my fingers all of sudden land on the right strings, and the struam finds the right pattern. It just clicks.

I think the same happens for many of us…we use tools, we practice with them, we explore them and then one day….they are working for you instead of you working for them.

Digital Immigrant vs Digital Native

As part of our course we had the teachers read about Digital Immigrant, Digital Native (Marc Prensky) for class. Love it or hate it, it always makes for great discussion. 🙂

Today I was running a session with 4th graders on using Excel to create reading logs as they track their reading at home and at school.

I started thinking about these 10 year olds who were born in 1999 or 2000. What does the world look like to them? They will never know a time without the Internet, cell phones, Skype, Google, and TVs that get 100s of stations. They’ll never know what it feels like to sit in a car for hours without a GameBoy, a DVD player, an iPod, or searching constantly for a radio station as you drive cross country.

They had already accumulated 1000s of hours of screen time before I stepped into there class today (Not saying this is right or wrong…just fact).

Only half the class said they had used Excel in the pass. As we worked through the lesson covering math terms such as column, row, cell, average, sum, and graph, we created a nice little Reading Log that will auto sum their reading time for the rest of the year. As well as continue to average out the time they read at home, school and total minutes read. A fun little activity.

At the end of the lesson the teacher asked them how many in the class felt as though they could do the whole lesson again on their own. All but three students raised their hands.

And that is where I think these kids are different. I do think that they’re brains are wired differently to learn and understand screens and manipulate this learning space because they have been learning and using these tools for years. They have a skill set through their experiences that allow them to learn and adapt quickly to this learning landscape.

Now I know they are fourth graders and not all of them would be able to reproduce the lesson again….but I also know if I was to do this same lesson with adult learners, those that Prensky would say are digital immigrants, that a week from now I would be back in their rooms walking them through the same steps….again my own experience.

This would be an interesting study. But it’s my hunch that kids just retain this type of lesson, this type of learning in this landscape better. I could be wrong…..

It’s been fun watching the teachers at our school get excited about these tools and this learning landscape. You can view some of their final thoughts on the course on their blogs here. I’m looking forward to the next course which focuses on 21st Century Literacy Ideas, Questions, and Issues. We’ll be talking about copyright, mass collaboration, privacy, digital profiles, and a host of other issues that are raised once we move into this new landscape for learning. It’s a five course certificate so we have a ways to go and more to learn and think about, but by the time this program is over at the end of next year, I think we’ll have a ground swell of people at ISB ready to take teaching and learning to a whole new level.