Saturday, January 31, 2009

New Web Stuff 02/01/2009

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

7 Things You DO Need to Know (About a New Digital Pedagogy)

  • You need a DLN: A Digital Learning Network.  Optimize what you do as a professional by networking with other professionals through Twitter , Facebook , Social Bookmarking , Blogging , etc.  If you’re unsure of where to start, CLICK HERE .  This is meant to be an extension of your PLN, with a new Digital Lens.  Connections are important--however you make them--and digital connections are easier than ever to make and can have a huge impact on your evolution as a professional!
  • You need to know the difference and perspective behind being a Digital Native  and being a Digital Immigrant , and try to bridge the gaps between the two.
  • You need to become familiar with Google Tools .  Specifically, you should have a Google Account and start investigating what Google has to offer.  There are a wide variety of resources available through Google that can help make your Digital Pedagogy experience much richer.  (Including Google Reader, iGoogle, Picasa, Google Earth, Google Docs, Google Calendar, and Google Chrome)
  • You need to understand that the technology tools don’t drive the content; the content drives the usage of the tool.
  • You need to know that the Internet is full of great resources, but there is a chance that, when working with students, inappropriate words, images, pop up windows, etc. may infiltrate what you’re doing.  How you deal with them in the situation is VERY important, as you model appropriate Internet behavior for your students.  If you don’t show them how to handle things the right way…who’s going to?
  • You need to know that JUST 1 THING is all it takes to start making a difference in your classroom. (Deferring to a previous blog post here …)
  • You need to know that good teaching revolves around content and standards, building relationships, invitational learning opportunities, rapport and respect, research based best practices, and caring about your students and where you will take them on their educational journey with you.  Good teaching hasn't changed.  The use of technology in education is all bonus, but cannot be the basis for what you do.  While technology may help to refine and hone your model, the human factor is still of utmost importance.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inaugural Wordle

I used the WORDLE web application to create a Tag Cloud of Obama's Inauguration Speech. (An idea I got from seeing a similar Wordle on Angela Maier's Blog. )  I was really impressed with him today and felt a renewed sense of community for our country.  When I look at the Wordle, which shows the recurrence of a particular word by the number of times it is used, there are obvious and invigorating messages behind what was written/said.

"People" and "Nation" were the biggest words, followed by words like "Spirit," "Generation," and "World."  He mentioned schools and the need for change, as well as plugging ourselves into the world in ways we never have before.  What he said underscored my reasons for starting this blog in the first place--to redefine our pedagogies and redefine our roles to incorporate learning at a whole new level that includes both students and teachers working together.

What do you think when you see the Wordle?

The images created by the Wordle application are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license. Details:

Creative Commons License 
Images created by the web application are licensed under aCreative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

New Web Stuff 01/19/2009

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

7 Things Meme...

I've been debating about whether or not I was going to participate in this Meme over the last week or so, but as more and more people do it, I feel that I should get on the bus too. I like reading about other people, and I guess it's only fair to share back. The only part I haven't done is tag 7 additional people to do this as well. I may add that later. I'm also planning to add a "7 More Things" post in the next couple of days to compliment this list of 7 Things you don't need to know, with 7 things you *DO* need to know--so be on the lookout for that!

7 Things You Don’t Need to Know:
  • I was a DJ for several months at an Alternative Radio Station back in college, where I was introduced to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Soundgarden, The Dead Milkmen, Camper Van Beethoven, Sonic Youth, and They Might Be Giants, along with many other bands I still enjoy today.
  • I went to college specifically to become a Marine Biologist. My entire childhood practically was spent collecting shells, maintaining aquariums & breeding fish, and reading about science, specifically marine sciences. I ended up graduated with an undergraduate degree in Biology because of a physics requirement I didn’t complete, but 90% of my college science classes were ocean/marine related. If you want to know the Latin binomial names for beach grass, a dolphin, or any member of the conch family—email me.
  • My first teaching moment, after I was hired at an Elementary School as a Special Education assistant, involved a picture book and a 2nd grade student suspected of having a Multiple Personality Disorder who shared with me that “the devil comes out of me when I have candy.” This was AFTER I had given her a ½ bag of M&M’s, which she voraciously ate. I told her to cover her mouth so that the devil couldn’t escape and sent her back to her regular class.
  • My favorite place in the whole world is at the North End of North Myrtle Beach, S.C., where the Intracoastal Waterway comes in. I specifically like low tide, early in the morning, when I’m on the beach by myself as the sun comes up. When I’m out there completely alone, I sing.
  • I’ve done some cool things: I’ve written a novel (about a psychic kid), I’ve been an extra in a couple of movies (Sleeping With The Enemy & Simple Justice-A Biopic about Thurgood Marshall), am Nationally Certified in Science, made it to the Regional Level for North Carolina State Teacher of the Year, am an Eagle Scout, written songs for a country band, have stood within 15 feet of the Queen of England, and I’ve been inside Anne Frank’s house.
  • I like Superhero movies and hope that they soon make a Wonder Woman movie, as I LOVED the TV series w/ Lynda Carter when I was a child. I’ve heard Beyonce is in talks to be Wonder Woman and I would be thrilled with that. In addition, the first Batman movie with Michael Keaton is my favorite, mainly because Prince did the soundtrack.
  • When I was a teenager, I participated in a youth public speaking program through the Toastmaster’s club to help me get over a fear of speaking in public. For the final session, there was a contest and I tried to be creative with the alliterative use of the letter “P.” I crafted a speech made up almost entirely of words that began with or contained the letter “P” as I thought I was being original and innovative. It was not meant to be funny, and I was mortified when the crowd howled with laughter and heartbroken when my speech didn’t even garner an honorable mention. I still feel a twinge of that moment from time to time when speaking to large groups.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

New Web Stuff 01/18/2009

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

What Teachers say about Technology PD

I thought it would be interesting to look at what teachers have to say about Technology Staff development, lifted directly from evaluations that are done at the end of workshops I've done over the years and from hearing teachers discuss what their needs are just in conversation:
  • -I've got this new information, now what do I do with it?
  • -Sometimes there can be too much information. It was great to see, but hard to apply.
  • -I need technology explained to me in just regular terms.
  • -I like when workshops are differentiated, then it makes a difference to me!
  • -I need hands on time.
  • -Teach to me and with me, not AT me.
  • -Small groups are best when working with technology.
  • -Tech Tools and Apps need to make solid connections to content.
  • -Work time is needed to invigorate my lessons with the technology I'm learning.
  • -I wish my team/grade level/school bought into this as well.
  • -I want to be engaged and motivated.

While I paraphrased these statements, they seem to come up often from a broad group of teachers all over Western New York. I suspect that these are issues for most teachers participating in staff development anywhere regardless of its focus on technology.

As you read them, I wonder if you had the same thoughts I did:
  1. Because of the breadth of new technologies available for teachers, show and tell is not a method that makes a difference to teachers or their students. "What" something is and "How" something works are two entirely different things.
  2. Whether your students are children or adults, motivation and engagement matters. Differentiation matters. Understanding your audience and their prior knowledge bases matters.
  3. Connection to content is vital. I wrote a comment on blog the other day about having a "tool box," but knowing which tool to choose for the job at hand. The job dictates the tool, the tool doesn't force the need for the job. You don't buy a hammer because you intend to build a house with it. You decide to build a house first, and decide that a hammer would be a useful tool to use. Additionally, you need multiple tools to "build your house." The technology tools that we work with, whether hardware or software are NOT our starting point. The content, the standards, our objectives--those are the starting points, using the tools to develop the content in the best way to facilitate learning.
  4. Lighten the landscape! When working with technology, too much of a good thing is a bad thing. Think of the content that teachers are teaching and choose a few tools that would "fit." I try to be sensitive to teachers whether they are computer novices or tech savvy experts. They don't all have to leave a workshop as experts, but everyone should leave with SOMETHING they can use. If that means showing only a few tools and resources, then so be it. Being overwhelmed is as bad as being bored. Balance is important.
  5. Playing is the new competency. (And also a future blog post...) Teachers, just like the students they teach, need independent practice time. This should be built in to every workshop, so that questions can be asked while the instructor is there. With all of the technology available, instructors should also be open to the "never-ending" workshop model: meaning that a "support" wiki could be created with additional resources, or a blog or forum could be set up for participants to ask questions, or at the very least, provide an email address for participants to contact the instructor.
What else can you add? Whether you are a staff development instructor or participant, what do you think about needs of teachers in workshops? What do you think about needs of students in classrooms that are trying to develop a more technological stance?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

New Web Stuff 01/16/2009

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

New Web Stuff 01/15/2009

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Test Prep and Music

I wrote a comment on a friend's blog post that ended with a reworking of Beyonce's song "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)" in preparation for the upcoming state tests. I haven't done this is in a couple of years, but thought that it was time to fire up the creative engine again and rewrite a popular song with testing lingo as a way to motivate kids to do well on their standardized testing, that isn't drill and skill! Research shows that positivity goes a long way toward engagement, breeding attention and performance in the process. What better way to put the kids in a positive zone than by creating and performing a funny song to the tune of one of their favorite tunes?!?

I *DID* use technology to accomplish this goal. You can download instrumental versions of songs you'd like to try this out with from iTunes and then use a Lyric search engine, such as Leo's Lyrics or just Google the song you'd like with the word "lyrics" in the search box. I use the lyrics to rewrite the song so that I can generally keep the syllables and rhyme scheme intact, even though I'm creating a parody version.

From there, find a group of teachers willing to perform and show the students what you're made of! (Even better would be to record it and upload to the internet for everybody to enjoy! If you do this, leave a link in the comments section!)

Here are the lyrics I re-wrote, feel free to use at will! If I'm feeling creative later, I may add another one!

(To the tune of Beyonce’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)” ) in honor of a mutual friend:

Students Cheer (Gonna Have To Test On It)

All the students cheer
All the students cheer
All the students cheer
All the students cheer
All the students cheer
All the students cheer
All the students cheer

Now put your books up!

Up in the class, the time came fast,
We gotta do this little ole test
We worked real hard, now we’re on guard
And all we can give is our best.
I’m ready now, Won’t have a cow,
I’m ready to pay attention
I’m the best there is, gonna bust this quiz
Gotta get lots of rest

‘Cause if you learn it then
You’re gonna have to test on it
If you learn it then
You’re gonna have to test on it
If you’re ready then you’re gonna do your best on it
So if you learn it
Then you’re gonna have to test on it. (Oh, Oh, Oh.)

I got protein, that’s nice and lean
And all the pencils I need
I’m not acting up, I say “WASSUP”
When it’s time to put the test in front of me.
I’m on a learning mission, did I mention
I gotta pay attention.
Now it’s my turn,
To prove what I learn
I won’t let some test beat me!

‘Cause if you learn it then
You’re gonna have to test on it
If you learn it then
You’re gonna have to test on it
If you’re ready then you’re gonna do your best on it
So if you learn it
Then you’re gonna have to test on it. (Oh, Oh, Oh.)

‘Cause if you learn it then
You’re gonna have to test on it
If you learn it then
You’re gonna have to test on it
If you’re ready then you’re gonna do your best on it
So if you learn it
Then you’re gonna have to test on it. (Oh, Oh, Oh.)

Don’t tell me that you worry about me,
I’m gonna be just fine,
You just wait and see, you gotta believe
I’m a kid who knows just what to do, here in school,
I won’t disappoint you, I’ve got a clue
This is true.
I’m ready for this test
Because I am the best,
Give it here, I’m ready now,
And like a star, you’ll just say WOW!

All the students cheer
All the students cheer
All the students cheer
All the students cheer
All the students cheer
All the students cheer
All the students cheer

Now put your books up!

‘Cause if you learn it then
You’re gonna have to test on it
If you learn it then
You’re gonna have to test on it
If you’re ready then you’re gonna do your best on it
So if you learn it
Then you’re gonna have to test on it. (Oh, Oh, Oh.)

Monday, January 12, 2009

New Web Stuff 01/13/2009

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Does Learning Stop?

*some rights reserved. Copyright Mushon, via Flickr

Does one ever get to a point and say, “Okay, this is good, I don’t need to know anything else.”

I'm sure it’s easy to read this and assume that I’m just being funny, or even trite, but trust me, some of the behaviors I’ve been seeing lately are very difficult to even smile about, much less laugh at.

My frame for teaching, my context for everything I do has always been about doing what’s best for kids. There have been days when I’ve made better decisions than other days, but I still find that I’m motivated, in part, by reflection and determining how I can best do the job at hand with the tools and resources at my disposal. Meaning that when an opportunity comes along to help me grow as a professional, I participate and many times seek out those opportunities.

I understand that I am not like everyone, and that what matters to me may not matter to anybody else. But, I find it astonishingly hard to believe that some teachers absolutely resist the opportunity for professional development. For LEARNING. For doing the thing that they are teaching students to do.

Sure, we’ve all been to workshops that could have been taught better. We’ve sat in on district driven initiatives that may not have fit into our style. That’s not necessarily what I’m talking about. I’m talking about staying on top of your field. I’m talking about finding opportunities to grow in areas that interest you. I’m talking about stepping out of your classroom and joining the majority of teachers who DO value that which is beyond the four walls of a traditional learning space.

I’m surprised when a teacher’s first question about the possibility of an upcoming workshop is about whether or not it’s been “mandated.” I’m surprised at the animosity of teachers who are asked to participate in professional development, and refuse to let anything penetrate the veneer of professionalism that they think they exude. I’m surprised to hear a teaching professional, whose entire livelihood is based on learning, refuse to actually continue to learn themselves.

If you don’t practice what you preach, should you be preaching at all?

Don’t misunderstand, though, I’m talking about a small group here. Most teachers I encounter are excited about the possibilities of learning something new that will impact student achievement in their classrooms, or perhaps make their jobs easier. I’m talking about that small group of teachers who put forth the effort of showing up everyday, but pretty much stop there.

Learning does not stop. In fact, I believe that the easiest way to become an ineffective teacher is to stop learning, to stop participating in professional development, to believe that you can’t grow.

If that is your mindset, are you doing what’s best for kids, or what’s best for you?

This is the end of my rant. I just pray that when my child enters school that she has teachers that believe in the power of learning so much that they continue to learn themselves.

New Web Stuff 01/11/2009

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

So Proud!

Former student of mine is participating in 800 mile bike trip for people with disabilities. So proud!

Monday, January 5, 2009

New Web Stuff 01/06/2009

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Teachers, Students, and Facebook

I’m finding it harder and harder to believe that a teacher/student connection on Facebook is that bad of a thing. I’ve read several articles/blogs recently promoting one position or another, such as THIS ONE or THIS ONE, and I’m still wondering if, overall, connections are a GOOD thing.
I spend a lot of time talking with teachers about making professional connections and inevitably, talk of Facebook and befriending students comes up. It’s no secret to anyone in my network that a good fraction of my “friends” are students I’ve taught in the past. I’ve even “friended” some of their parents.

I’m more of a constructivist and like to see what unfolds when things are allowed to happen. I understand the concerns that other teachers and administrators have with networking through sites like Facebook, but I also understand that ignoring that network is ignoring a mountain of possibilities for professional development and teaching about appropriate internet usage.

Does befriending students mean that I am their “friend” in the normal sense of the word?


I can still be a professional while understanding that this connection is a preservation of communities I've built over the years—I get to continue conversations and have opportunities that extend beyond the classroom interaction. For instance, because I’m networking with previous students, I have the opportunity to continue to teach them when they post things like phone numbers, addresses, pictures of their cars w/ a license plate, etc. It gives me a chance to remind them that EVERYONE can see what they are posting and they may want to reconsider what they’ve got on their pages, especially if they are looking for a job or trying to get into a particular college. Additionally, the chat feature has often times given me the opportunity to do homework or research help.

(As an aside…how many of our students have actually been TAUGHT about appropriate internet usage and are of the “anything goes” mindset? Or perhaps they are of the “anonymous internet” mindset and believe that what they do online is somehow a secret…)

My Facebook network is comprised of Family, Friends, previous students, colleagues, acquaintances from High School and College, and professional contacts. I don’t post anything that I wouldn’t mind ending up being on the front page of the newspaper. In fact, in all of my online activities, I try to maintain a professional tone, or at least try to refrain from references that could be misconstrued. I like being able to network with this group of people—not only to find out what is going on with them, but also to build a Professional Learning Network of users that have similar interests to mine.

The times really are a-changing. We can’t expect that what was considered right or wrong in the past is still considered the same way. This is what being a global community means. If we, as teachers, administrators, staff developers, etc. are really interested in best practices, shouldn’t we be interested in embracing the tools that we know students are using?

It’s okay to set boundaries for usage, or make decisions about whether or not you “befriend” anyone, but I don’t think it’s okay for folks to just put a blanket kibosh on something that has a lot of potential for changing the way people, not just kids, are educated.