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Still trying to remember where my summer went, I find myself back in Bangkok and preparing for the year ahead. This could be a big tech year for my school. Things are in place to start really using technology in some innovative ways. Not that we haven’t in the past, but the systematic changes we’ve made this year will definitly add some ability to use technology in much more authentic ways. 

We continue to roll out our 1:1 program this year with all 6-8th graders getting a MacBook Pro to start the school year off. Next year will be 9-12 and what excites me is we have 5th and 4th grade teachers already asking ‘how about us?’. 

We’ve continued with our stratagy of building our online communication and blended learning enviornment around three key tools. Google Apps, WordPress Blogs, and Moodle.

Google Apps:

We’ve just finshed rolling out Google Apps to all teachers on our main domain so all students and teachers are now officially on the Google Apps platform making the ability to use calendars, docs, and sites that much easier and much more powerful. What is also great is the resources around Google Apps for Education, Google has done a good job of getting videos, handouts, etc out there for others to use…and at the same time keep innovating with their apps.

Speaking of which another Gmail Lab extension hit sometime last week I think. It’s called Preview Pane and basically gives you the 3-column view like Outlook. Another great feature to help those who are use to this view make the transition. If you’re a long time gmail user this might not be a big hit…but for teachers transitioning from a desktop client it could be a stepping stone. 

 

Preview Pane 440x67

 WordPress Blogs:

I’m excited each year now as we continue to grow how we’re using blogs at our school (download the free PDF to the right for more info). This will be our 4th year using blogs. What I love most is that the blogs and blogging has never been a focus of the tech team or the school yet this year every 3-12th grader will have their own blog. My school does have a definition of learning though:

Learning is the primary focus of our school and we recognize learning as a life-long adventure. We value meaningful learning where students construct enduring understanding by developing and applying knowledge, skills, and attitudes. Increased understanding is evidenced by students who:

– Explain its relevance
– Describe how it connects to or conflicts with prior learning
– Communicate it effectively to others
– Generalize and apply it effectively to new situations
– Reflect critically on their own and other’s learning
– Ask questions to extend learning
– Create meaningful solutions

There are at least four bullet points that I can specifcally tie to blogging and even show evidence of over the past three years. What I love is some of our students are starting to connect posts together of their prior learning (point 2). When you have four years of thinking, artifacts, pictures, assignments all in one place it makes it easy to reflect on your learning and tie that to prior knowledge you have. That….is powerful learning!

Moodle:

As we continue to roll out our 1:1 program Moodle has become the foundation for our blended leanring enviornment. It’s great to see the administrative team on board with where we’re going as this year all high school and middle school teachers have a manditory 2 hour Moodle training to start the school year. A chance to really look at the design aspect of courses and give the teachers some time to create their content for this year. I’m excited to see if we can take Moodle and Blended Learning to the next level…..maybe even flip some classrooms. 🙂

 

Any school looking for an online blended learning enviornment I have to say this is a pretty powerful one. These three tools together give us a lot of flexability with our online learning space. I’d be interested in hearing what other schools have set up for their blended learning space. 

As the school year draws to a close (one week left for us here in Thailand) I find myself reflecting on my first year here in the high school. The accomplishments I’m proud of, the failures to celebrate and the future that is so exciting. 

Accomplishments:

handshake
by Aidan Jones

First and foremost are the relationships I’ve built this first year. This really is the foundation to a Technology Integration position. Whether your first year in a school or just a new division building relationships, understanding the systems, and building trust and confidence with the facutly is in essential part to the first year.  

I feel I had an advantage coming into the high school this year as teaching the CoETaIL Program for two years at ISB allowed me to meet and collaborate with faculty from all three divisions. So transitioning into the high school, I wasn’t coming in as an “unknown” person from the elementary. It helped that I had some established relationships but I still had to “prove” that I knew what I was doing in the high school. Overall, I feel like I’m getting into departments more and have laid some great ground work to take the use of technology to a new level next year.

Building on the back of those relationships I was able to support teachers in taking some risks and rethinking some aspects of their teaching. Jim Fitzgerald, who I’ve blogged about before, took on the reverse instruction challenge, and we saw great success in redefining the role of the teacher and student engagement. The ideas that we proved posible in his class are now slowly spreading through the rest of the English Department and into other departments as well….a great foundation to build on for next year.

In December I was given 5 minutes at a faculty meeting to talk about technology in the high schol. The timing was right having been able to build relationships first semester and proven myself. I challenged teachers with ideas of small changes they could make that might just lead to great learning gains. One of those challenges was to think through how we have students present information.

Dave Krocker, another English teacher, took on the challenge and together we looked at the presentations students were doing in English class. We decided that there was learning in the process of making a presentation that we were not tapping into and we needed a structure that would make the process of building a presentation powerful. We decided to have the students do Pecha-Kucha presentations. They turned out amazing, and Dave was sold on the power of visual presentations. These presentations led Dave to re-exam other areas and tap into the technology skills that our kids already have, and students ended up producing some amazing products, including this video from Sarah on an interpretation of Romeo and Juliet.

Other accomplishments include continuing to use the blogs as reflecting web-based portfolios in Theory of Knowledge classes and Senior Seminor classes. A great foundation on the use of blogs that we can build on next year.

 

Failures:

winsome
by bjornmeansbear

Ah….the failures. If you’re pushing, thinking, and discovering there are bound to be failures along the way. If you don’t have any failures then you’re not pushing hard enough. 

One semi failure was the wikitionary project we did in English as an Additional Langugage (EAL) class. It sounded good, looked good, but in the end I think it was a failure. The kids weren’t as motivated as I thought, and the wiki community we choose to be a part of was not welcoming to the fact that we had students who were helping to build a wiki for EAL students when they themselves were EAL students. The project become frustrating both for teachers and students. The teacher, asking students to do specific things, soon found out that the wiki community didn’t believe the things she was asking kids to add were appropriate for the wiki. The kids adding things to the wiki would find that before the teacher had a chance to check their work, that the wiki community had deleted their hard work. 

In the end we learned how important it is that you choose to join a wiki community/project that truly supports your learning goals. 

Another failure was the Radio Club for the second year in a row that I have been trying to get started. This year we made some head way in that we actually produced a couple shows and had some fun. The problems started to mount up when our equipment which I had thrown together from pieces around the school (including a computer with a half working screen) started to break. Our sound quality wasn’t very good, and that frustrated the kids as they wanted to create high quality material. Also the promise of being able to be live on the Internet didn’t work out as all the live streaming services were blocked here in Thailand up until about three weeks ago. 

By semster it was getting harder and harder for me to motivate the kids to produce shows, and the core group that stuck with it were all seniors, which meant come Feburary they became focused on graduation and their senior year and the club took a back seat. My goal of producing three quality shows a week turned out to be 13 shows total for the year. I still think we could make a Radio Club fly here at ISB but I have to find a way to get quality audio equipment to create quality audio that the community wants to listen to. All year I’ve been trying to find funds, and hopefully by the start of next year I’ll be able to convince the powers that be somewhere that this is good for kids.

The Future:

The future is bright here at ISB and I’m excited in the direction we’re heading. Our 1:1 program expands next year from Grade 6 this year to Grades 6-8 next year, and then 6-12 hopefully the year after that. 

Our complete adoption of Google Apps for both students and staff will streamline a lot of our communication within the school and with our community.

The continued use of blogs as web-based portfolios as teachers now in 2nd Grade want to start blogging with their students next year. Meaning every student grades 3-12 and half of 2nd grade will be creating a web-based portfolio via their blog. 

The idea of reverse instruction continues to be a conversation in the high school and I’m looking forward to continuing to push teachers to look into it as an option for teaching content outside the classroom.

usPersonally I’ll stuggle agian to balance my 90% time here at ISB with my consulting and presentation work with schools, organizations and conferences. My calendar for next year is filling up fast and I’ll once again have to walk the fine line between being here for teachers and following my passion for teaching teachers the power of these tools. This year under a 100% contract my life got way out of balance and was unhealthy tipped towards my work. I’ve been able, with the help of a supportive wife, to step back and get refocused these last couple of months. You are only as good as the support system around you and I’m lucky enough to have a strong one!

All in all it was a great first year in the High School. People ask me if I like if better than the elementary. I’m not sure you can compare the two…they are so different as the kids have different skills and are in different place when it comes to using technology in their daily lives. I love all of it…the kids, the thinking, and the learning. As this year comes to a close I’m already excited for what next year will bring.  

 

3rd Grade Teacher, Laura Chesebro here at ISB continues to impress me with her innovative use of technology with kids. First there is her class website/blog where she engages both parents and students. Then there is the fact all her students are blogging themselves. Another example of her innovation was the weather unit they did earlier this year where she used her Facebook and Twitter Network to gather temperatures around the world for the kids to analyze and use. 

And if that wasn’t enough, she’s now reinventing the way a classroom newspaper is created. 

I remember creating classroom newspapers with my students in 4th, 5th, & 6th grade. This project almost makes me want to go back into the classroom again just to try it for myself. 

First, there is Laura’s understanding of how kids learn technology. Before they start this project, she exposes them to Google Docs and lets them explore the program. It didn’t take long for the kids to of course find the chat feature in Google Docs. For some teachers, this would have been a reason to stop using Google Docs, for others like Laura, it was a teaching opportunity and a chance to use it for learning. A quick call to the carpet, the class talked about the chat. Why did Google put it there? How would you use it? What would you say? And off they go again exploring the program.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then there is the template Laura found by searching the Google Doc Templates for “Student Newspaper.” Someone else out there had done the hard work of creating the template for her (Thanks Lezlie Harris whoever you are).  

Next was the creation. I went to observe as the students took the rough drafts they had on paper and started typing them into the newspaper template. Three to four kids to a “section” of the newspaper, working simutaneously on the same document. As I watched via the Google Docs, it didn’t take the students long to start chatting. One group talked about the font they were going to use. Another group commented and encouraged each other on how much they had written or how fast they were writing. Yes, they were all in the same room but what a great way to start teaching “chat etiquette” in an environment that could be monitored by a teacher.

Next it was time to find pictures. A lesson on Creative Commons and using compfight and the kids were off to find pictures for their articles. Another lesson on citation/attribution and with a little help from the teacher, the students also learned how to correctly cite pictures used from the Internet. 

Lastly, Laura makes some final formatting edits, downloads the different sections of the newspaper out of Google Docs in PDF form. She combines them into one PDF and uploads them to Youblisher to create their online Newspaper. 

youblisher
Click the Image to see the Magazine

I haven’t even talked about the writing standards, research standards, or reading standards that were covered along the way. What a fun, engaging, powerful project. Just the thought of using Google Docs with 3rd graders blows my mind. Adults have a hard enough time wrapping their heads around how Google Docs works and here 9 year olds go about it like they “get it”. No fear, handling frustrations in stride, like it was another day at the office….and for them and their future…it probably will be. 

A great project that I wanted to take the time to celebrate. Laura also has a professional blog that she keeps where she’s outlined a lot of the procedures she used and thinking about this project. Elementary teachers, here’s another voice to connect with!

(P.S. Laura is a CoETaIL participant)

Last week I was asked to give a talk to our high school students about CyberSafety. A yearly talk to remind them about the Internet and their responsibility on it….or that’s how I view it anyway. 

I was given 5 minutes at an assembly….5 minutes to cover the whole topic of CyberSafety. So the question became how do I make an impact in 5 minutes?

I decided that the best way to present what I wanted to say was to do a Pecha-Kucha. First, when given such a short time frame I wanted to make sure I didn’t get off track, go down a rabbit hole of my own thinking and never make the point. The structure of the Pecha-Kucha with slides pre-timed at 20 seconds per slide would force me to stick to the message. Secondly, Pecha-Kucha as a presentation style has been catching on in our high school ever since I did one for a staff meeting. Many of our students have had to give Pecha-Kuchas this year and seeing that it was me that brought this loved/hated presentation style to the kids it was only fair that I play by the same rules (Plus I hoped that showing them a good example would help them in their own presentations in the future).

Talking about CyberSafety to high school students is a topic I always find difficult. It’s there world you’re talking about . How do you tell them about their world? You can scare them with stories, you can overwhelm them with statistics, or you can ask them to take control. This year I would ask them to take control.

First I knew I needed to establish a connection with them so my opening slide was this: 

Google Resume

Just the slide on the screen had the kids clapping, cheering and laughing. I quickly told them that even though LOL and OMG are now official words that they should still check with their English Teachers before using them in their next essay. But the laughter and cheering was the connection, I had an emotional response that now I could play on. My next slide was about CyberSafety…that’s it one slide.

Google Resume

I simple said “Be Safe and know that everything is Public….does anyone have any questions?” They again laughed and rightfully so…they’ve heard this for years now. To make a point that there is no privacy on the Internet I used Credit Card companies that for years now do not charge you for anything purchased on a stolen card. They eat billions of dollars every year in stolen credit card numbers, yet they are willing to take that risk so that you the customer can have the ease of purchasing online…..assume it’s public…assume it’s going to happen eventually.

I then talked about some stats to frame the rest of my talk. 2 Billion Interent users 500 Million+ on Facebook or in other words 25% of all Internet users are on Facebook (that silenced the crown…again an emotional fact I don’t think they realized). I talked about text messaging and displayed this made up graph of the correlation between bathroom breaks and text messaging at our school. Again the kids laughed (emotional response).

Google Resume

All of this in 80 seconds (4 slides) to frame my real message of the day. That with all this information out there you need to learn to control it and use it. So I framed the rest of my talk about building your Google Resume. We all use Google to look up everything, even people we meet. Employees and Universities do the same, Google in many cases is your first resume and the paper copy that you hand in is really your second. So how to do you use the power of Google to build your resume?

I talked about using their blogs as a place to tell the world who they are and want to be. I talked about leaving comments on other blogs around the world. I talked about submitting articles to high profile blogs or online sites including our own In The Mix which has had over 70,000 views since it started last August. A site started just for this purpose…to promote great student writing. 

I talked about being active on the web, that every one of them should have a Facebook account as you have to be there to control the information, to use it to your advantage seeing that 80% of Universities now use Facebook and other social networks to find information on you.

I ended with this simple slide. Be Safe, Be Active, Take Control. I do believe those are the keys to being safe on the web…no matter your age. 

There’s been a lot of talk about my presentation since…..even teachers Googling themselves and asking how do they build their Google Resume. A couple students have submitted writings to In The Mix and today after school I’m doing a sessoin of Resume building that the counselors asked me to run for seniors. 5 minutes to make an impact and it seems to have worked in the short term anyway. We’ll see where this leads as we prepare for next year. 

After 3 years I still feel that the blogging platform is one of the best web-based portfolios tools available to schools…and now kids are thinking so as well. We’ve only really been using the blogs in our high school the last two years with this year more classes using them for student reflection and meaningful research. One of our seniors recently wrote this as part of his reflection in his senior seminar class:

This year in Mrs. Corning’s Senior Seminar class, blogging was a very important part of the criterion.  Since I already knew how to navigate through my own blog, I was able to successfully update my reflections and to astutely deal with any electronic errors that occurred while I was on my blog.  The video posting posed a new challenge, though, but I greatly enjoyed filming it and sharing my own video with my peers.  Whenever I scan through  my blog, I feel a great sense of accomplishment as I review my past assignments.  In a way, my blog acts as a time machine as I am able to instantly view my work from the past two years. It is satisfying to examine my growth as a person and as a writer whenever I compare two different works from varying time periods in the latter of my high school career.  I believe that schools all around the world will soon adopt the use of blogs due to their convenience and practicality, especially when educating students on a global level.  Through blogs, I can exhibit my writing to people all over the world, and I am also able to learn from other student’s blogs.

Here at ISB we’re in our 3rd year of using blogs as web-based portfolios. You can learn about our approach and setup in the free PDF I created and that can be downloaded from the sidebar of this blog.

Student It excites me to see that the students are starting to understand what the blogs purpose is. Having a space to be able to call your own, create your own content, and from time to time do an assignment gives the kids the autonomy, purpose and ability to master they need to be motivated (all three of which are mentioned above). 

It’s not perfect…we’re still, as a school, defining the blogs use. What school work should go on the blog if any, how to grade it…if it should be graded, and a lot of other logistical stuff.

But in the meantime, kids are blogging, creating content about what they’re learning, what they’re interested in, and doing it because we provided  them a place to do that in. I have no doubt that we’ll figure out how to use these better as a school for learning. But sometimes you just got to throw the tool out there, start using it, and figure out the rest as you go. 

Maybe this is why I like technology and the time period we’re in right now. Everything is always in beta. 

(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.

phone
   by Florian SEROUSSI

Over this past school year my wife and I have slowly been watching a change in the way her Middle School students communicate with her. It has me thinking that we no longer get to decide the communication tool for a conversation. 

It started back in September when my wife received an e-mail from Facebook via a student. My wife is not friends with any students on Facebook but that didn’t and hasn’t stopped them from sending her messages about school. The first time it happened we laughed and my wife was a bit freaked out. But over the course of the year it’s been happenings more and more. Kids, who are always on Facebook, and using it like e-mail decided it was OK to contact their school counselor that way…and is it?

A counselors role is to be available to their students in time of need and crisis. Do we really care how they contact their counselor? What program or method they use? I sure don’t and even though at first it freaked my wife out she’s coming to terms with the fact that this is e-mail for the kids, this is how they have decided to communicate and we no longer control the communication tools.

Then a couple weeks ago…on a Sunday….she gets a text message from a students (our school directory lists cell phone numbers of admin and counselors). Now, forgetting your homework for the weekend and texting your counselor about it on Sunday night really does not qualify as a crisis, but the fact remains that this student decided that was the communication tool they were going to use. Are we going to see more of this as well? Time will tell.

All of this has me thinking about schools and what are the communication tools we set up and are they the right tools? Do our schools need a Facebook profile so that students and increasingly parents can contact the school in that way?

I keep thinking about all the places I carry on conversations. Some initiated by me, in which I choose the tool, but most by others. Some conversations are in Twitter, some on Facebook, others in text messages, and yet others in e-mails. Sometimes a conversation crosses platforms other times it stays in the original form factor. 

So the question becomes should every counselor be required to have a Facebook page?

How about Teachers?

Who decides?

dung bettle
 

You know when you’ve been thinking something for awhile but it’s not very popular so you never say anything…..and then there’s a conversation that gets you going and before you know it…things just come out?

OK….so maybe this doesn’t happen to you…but it does to me….often actually. Think before I speak is something I obviously need to work on.

Today while kicking off another CoETaIL Cohort here at the #ETC11 conference this came rolling out of my mouth…and of course was tweeted right away.

what are the essentials of learning? @jutecht might have said something like “standards and benchmarks are crap!” too funny! #etc11less than a minute ago via TweetDeck

“standards & benchmarks are 20th century crap!” quote from @jutecht #etc11 #coetailless than a minute ago via TweetDeck

Yes….I’ve been thinking this for awhile. I’ve been having an issue with standards and benchmarks (S&B) for years. Specifically how they apply to technology in schools. Read here, here and here.

School has changed, we used to learn “just in case” now we need to be teaching “just in time”. (OK…schools haven’t changed but they should)

The way schools are applying S&Bs is frustrating me…especially in the American system where we’re getting to the point in many schools where everyone is on the same page at the same time learning the same standard. Forget if kids actually master the concept because we need to move on to the next standard.

S&Bs are 20th century thinking that we’re still trying to apply to a 21st Century world. A world were essential habits and attitudes of learning are what we need to be focused on. Where meta-congnitive skills and the ability to think about our own thinking will serve our students better than learning their times tables (I have access to 4 calculators within hands reach as I type).

So the conversation then is what is learning about? And as the tweet above states: What are the essentials of learning?

My current school I think is on the right track. What I would love to do is throw out all the S&Bs and tie everything we teach to our definition of learning. Your school has defined what learning is right? Here’s ISB’s Definition of Learning:

Learning is the primary focus of our school and we recognize learning as a life-long adventure. We value meaningful learning where students construct enduring understanding by developing and applying knowledge, skills, and attitudes. Increased understanding is evidenced by students who:

  • Explain its relevance
  • Describe how it connects to or conflicts with prior learning
  • Communicate it effectively to others
  • Generalize and apply it effectively to new situations
  • Reflect critically on their own and other’s learning
  • Ask questions to extend learning
  • Create meaningful solutions

So the question is: What’s the “stuff” that we teach?

What if it was “stuff” students were passtionate about?

What if we gave students full autonomy, purpose, and the ability to master things?

What if school was not about content but about skills and attitudes?

What if students were “judged” on these 7 definitions of what it means to learn?

Yes….I know this idea has holes

Yes…it’s not perfect

Yes…I know you’re going to leave passionate comments (at least you’re passionate)

No…it’s never going to happen (schools have invested to much time in creating S&Bs)

Yes….I think S&Bs are 20th Century Crap that we’re trying to fit into a new world where content no longer rules. S&Bs have been disrupted by technology but we won’t can’t let them go because we fear the unknown.

There…I said it….what a weight off my shoulders.  

OK….so the title made you click and read this post…and that’s what I’m hoping will happen with our student body. I got a brillant…stupid idea the other day to see if I could engage the student community in using Facebook and FourSquare to promote our up coming Softball Spirit Night (I’m Asst. Coach to boys varsity softball….we play softball instead of baseball at school…so don’t judge me!)

I’m sure there are going to be people that read this and think I’m insane, think I’m putting kids in danger, or a host of other reasons why this might not work…but I do have to say on this one I actually got it approved through the school admin and our very switched on Atheltic Director is in full support. (In full disclosure our Dean of Students, Dennis Harter did my job before me…and our Atheltic Director Andy Vaughen is a COETAIL graduate and a huge user of technology in both Atheltics and Physical Education)

Here’s the plan: Spirit Night is this coming Friday as the softball team takes on the International School of Kuala Lumpur

I first made a special on the school’s FourSquare page (see this post about using FourSquare at our school) that you can see in the image above that outlines how to win a prize if you attend Spirit Night. 

Basically kids have to do two things.

1. They have to check-in on FourSquare between 7-8pm (during the game)

2. They have to post on their Facebook Page a status that reads “I’m at Spirit Night are you?”

Monday morning the first 10 students to come to my office and show me that they accomplished the two things above in the time frame win a prize donated by our PTA via our Athletic Director. 

Next step….how do I get the word out to kids? Sure I could have put it in the bulletin that not every student reads, but instead I decided that using the network fully would be an interesting test. So I found 5 very active ISB Facebook groups, joined them and posted a message outlining the details of the compitition to get this in front of kids and get them talking about it.

That’s it…we’ll see what happens tomorrow night…I’m excited to see if this works…or it might be a total flop as kids will look at this and think “There goes Mr. U again and one of his crazy ideas.”

Either way….I’m having fun!