Sunday, May 27, 2007

A tempered rant.

Dean Shareski posted the other day about Possibility v. Probability, where by he addressed the issue of building an infrastructure within his school where change was seen as urgent and necessary in regards to how we use technology in our teaching. This same idea, in various forms, is one that I find myself answering to both internally and with teachers that I work with. The most frustrating aspect of my job so far has been the feeling that teachers don't see the value in what I do in regards to their own teaching methods. There are two disconnects I see in the schools today: complaints I hear regarding cell phone usage, the ubiquity of iPods, and the persistent time-wasting of online gaming and social networking through MySpace and Facebook and the lack of change in pedagogical methods to captivate that audience and use those ideas and technologies to draw in the learners, and the sore-thumb syndrome, whereby teachers are using technology for technology's sake rather than as a tool that will foster growth and understanding. Below, is a great clip from Stephen Downes as he responded to Dean's post and follow up question of what schools will look like in five years, followed by my own comment:

Comment by Stephen Downes

May 26, 2007 @ 6:54 am

there’s no easy answer to that. Schools change very slowly, so although
there will be increased penetration for tech (usually sanitized to
separate students from society) things will look much like they will
today. There will be increased pressure - especially from the U.S. -
for alternatives, but it will be difficult to separate educational
ventures from commercial ventures.

Meanwhile, online media will have gradually become more pervasive
and more immersive. It will occupy an increasing amount of students’
time. Online will be - indeed, is already - be thought of as ‘normal’
and most students will be in constant communication with their friends
(watch out for loners shut out of this network, as they will be more
isolated than ever).

Mostly, school will be about socializing and learning pushed to the
back burner (at least, for students). There will be an ongoing (and
losing) battle by teachers to prevent students from using their
technology. The number of schools breaking down and accepting the
online world will increase. Adoption will be uneven, with urban schools
being at the forefront, rural schools late adopters.

The students’ real learning environment - their online world - will
penetrate the school environment one class at a time. Innovative
teachers will attempt to actually remove students from the school
grounds much more frequently than in the old field-trip days (this
allowing for 100 percent use of online techs). The amount of school
time actually spent ins school, as an average, will constantly decrease
(in five years it should be roughly 80 percent, give or take a lot; in
ten years it could be down to 50 percent, give or take a lot).

Comment by Patrick

May 27, 2007 @ 4:44 am

on where you are, as Stephen said above, the ratio of innovative
teachers to traditional teachers will fall in favor of transformation.
For districts that lie in the suburbs and are truly committed to having
their schools remain centers of community outside of athletics and
arts, the shift is essential and the acquisition and support of
“shifted” teachers will bely their success at being involved in the
real learning process of their students.

This thought process that you had, Dean, is one that I have been
struggling with as I attempt to penetrate(I hope that word doesn’t
sound to pugnacious) classrooms that don’t necessarily see the need for
change. My biggest issue is with the technology not being as
transparent as it should yet. I have several teachers dieing to use
“technology” in their classroom, and several Professional Improvement
Plans submitted by teachers that use that terminology “integrate
technology” but what for? It’s apparent that they are taking that step
just for the sake of using technology. What about making it
transparent, so that it’s just another tool, like heterogeneous
grouping, that they they use to accomplish the goal of learning? That
is where my biggest disconnect is: the technology sticks out too much.

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Friday, May 25, 2007

It's just too easy sometimes

This was made with Flixn (thanks to Will Richardson for this one), and it was unbelievably easy. The application just uses your Flash settings and away you go. Very cool, and Audrey loved it too.

Something akin to sensemaking

Like most of us out there, we are nearing the end of the year in my district, and with it comes the rush of exams, the spontaneous absence of students due to field trips and warm weather, and all of the various celebratory events that accompany June in New Jersey. However, this is the time of the year where taking stock of past events becomes essential to learning from what we've done.

Mark at Anecdote wrote recently about talking to a client of his about sensemaking as it relates to having perspective on situations that we need to understand in our life and work:
It provides an opportunity for an unhindered look at the experiences of
participants and the gaining of new and valuable insights into the
state of the system under examination; what is working and what isn’t,
and the implications moving forward.

A few days ago I had the wonderful opportunity to work with a group of first-year teachers in a two-hour workshop. When the idea was pitched to present to them, I immediately began thinking about what were essential concepts that I could present in two hours. To do this, I looked back at the past year of notes, big paper brainstorms, but most importantly, I looked at the conversations that I have had through this medium. It hit me when I was reading Eric Hoefler's post called 60-30-10: I am not writing in isolation. The best way to fully experience this is look over previous posts and analyze personal change, notice patterns and assess growth.

This is the essence of sensemaking; we are looking for meaning and deciphering patterns in our own thought when we examine our posts, and even deeper so when we analyze conversations in comments.

In doing this, what did I see? What were those concepts? Considering the discussions and the tremendous amount that I have learned in the past few months regarding direction and philosophy of education, two hours looked like too small a window for me to fit what I considered essential. However, that thought in itself taught me everything that I needed: the information is what is important, not the technology. Jeff Utecht makes this analogy so well in Embedded Technology on his blog, where he promotes the idea, gleaned from discussion on a previous post, that it is far better to consider technology as an integral piece of the planning, rather than a bell and a whistle at the end. My take on the same piece as applied to these two hours was that rather than show them some bells and whistles, I would focus on individual productivity. My choices? Aggregating RSS feeds and social bookmarking.

Upon scrutiny of this past year in terms of my professional development, nothing has allowed me more access to information than my aggregator and my ability to use smarter people than me to search for me on Two hours on those two aspects was more than enough time, so much so that I was also able to slip in connective writing and creating global classrooms.

In the next couple of days, provided the 8-week old steadily moves toward a more fixed schedule, I will continue to examine this past year by covering some topics that are truly meaningful to me as I prepare for next year, such as changing school philosophy and environment, building teams, and taking risks.

Sensemaking, to return to the original theme of this ramble, is the art of connecting yourself to the larger ideas that surround you. Stopping to take a look at them is the first step towards learning from what you have done.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

New Careers?

According to CNN Money's recently released feature Business 2.0, the newest careers that our students may soon engage in are as follows:

How do we prepare our students for careers as seemingly unimaginable as these?

Friday, May 18, 2007

Notes from NJECC

I am at our monthly meeting of the New Jersey Educational Computing Consortium. Today's agenda includes topics like iWeb as a classroom publishing tool, videoconferencing, Inspiredata as a means for data analysis, and a few vendors selling their wares.

Coming here on a monthly basis, something we have done all year, always serves as a great way to recharge my batteries and go home with new ideas to use with my staff, and with my self. We have missed the last few months due to scheduling conflicts, and it was noticeable.

Mimio is an interesting product on display now. It is a small piece of hardware that converts any dry erase board into an interactive whiteboard by imaging form the side of the board wirelessly. It is portable, cross-platform, but I don't know how well it competes with SMARTBoard or Numonics products. Ink capture is not a problem either, as it saves the writing as a jpeg or other image types. Inkcasting, or boardcasting, is an interesting phenomena that the speaker just brought up. Mimio is working with Apple to convert the ink that is captured to movie format that can be played back on a video iPod.

I had worked with a Mimio a couple of years ago, and was not crazy about it, however, this model (the company was recently purchased by Rubbermaid), looks to be top-notch. This is a great toy with practical applications for teachers of students with special needs.

A rep from United Streaming is talking about the newer features of United Streaming. Some crazy stuff here, most specifically OnePlace, which enables a district or organization to house all of their digital content, either uploaded or downloaded, onto a server. The example he used was a district's shared drive; when content goes in, rarely is it accessible by any other teacher than the one that put it there, although technically the idea behind a shared drive is just that. What OnePlace does is create a searchable database. In their own words:

OnePlace enables schools, districts, or regions to take full advantage of their online teaching resources-licensed, subscription-based, locally created, even free--through a single entry point.
Discovery Educator Network, similar to the Apple Distinguished Educator program, is seeking to create a program whereby educators and professionals from other fields gain access to each other.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

As they see it...

Previously, I posted about my observations of the teachers in the connective writing workshop that I have been conducting over the last two days. Actually, it was more of an introduction and overview than a workshop, but nonetheless, some great dialog came out of it.

Here are some of the quotes that I was able to pull from our discussion of yesterday's project:

  • "We needed to have a plan and sit together and work through the information"
  • "Sometimes things would appear on the document that I wouldn't want on there, stuff that I wouldn't put on their if this were my own document."
  • "We really had no format to follow, so trying to learn the application, collaborate, and write was hard."
  • "Should we have had roles?"
  • "You can see where having good communication skills is important when doing this."
  • "It is not as easy explaining to people what you want them to do this way."
Some pretty telling soundbites here, and we spoke about these as we looked at various examples of connective writing and online collaboration. Framing this in the context of these teachers as my students, they understood a need for scaffolding with technology, and I tried to model what it would be like when the teacher learns alongside the students; I had no idea how any of this would pan out, so I was making decisions about what information to share and which direction to push in as the need arose.

A spontaneous discussion about teaching digital literacy and ethics arose as we began introducing blogging examples and formats. What was great was that they all were advocates of tearing down the filters and the blocks to Internet sites. Several of them revealed that conversations were more important than limiting access. I have a great staff to work with.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Beginning to See the New Problems

With the use of Read/Write technologies in our classrooms, comes a whole new set of problems that our students will face--a new set of decisions to make in order for them to achieve success. When we experience these problems and make these decisions beforehand, our role as coach and mentor becomes more meaningful.

Yesterday I began the first of two one-hour sessions in a class called "Writing with the MySpace Generation," aimed at introducing teachers to the idea of connective writing. I had taught this class previously to a group of middle school teachers, but this class is made up of high school teachers. Instead of standing in front of the room taking them through the wiki and the ins and outs of Google Documents and Spreadsheets, with the help of my wife I decided to design an activity whereby the "students" were asked to create a summary of some data that I had provided for them. They were to use Google Docs to write the summary, but they also had to incorporate Spreadsheets to create the charts then embed them in the summary evaluation.

When presented with the problem, which was by no means what they thought they had signed up for, a few things became apparent:

  • they first had to work within the application and play to see how it all worked
  • even though they were in the same room, planning out the roles and delegating the tasks was paramount to getting anywhere
  • it was extremely important to share information quickly
  • controlling who edits and when, is necessary
  • chatting (in spreadsheets) is fun
Perhaps the best question that came out of this activity, which took much longer than I had anticipated, was after the class was over:

How is this different than giving the students an assignment in school in Excel or Word and having them work on it and save it to our shared drive, where they can all access it?

The first thing out of my mouth was access. Our classes last 40 minutes, and homework debate aside, rarely do we feel that it is enough for us or them to see, touch, discuss, connect and incorporate what we would like to them to. The Read/Write web tears down those time parameters. The concept of asynchronous learning is a hard one to grab on to, as is the concept of a learner-driven classroom.

Clay Burell had commented about student trepidation a while back in regards to becoming 21st Century students, whereby they resisted as much as teachers resisted the change. It requires some different processes to be successful, but overall, I am seeing that a lot of the same valued characteristics that we look for in students today: communication, critical thinking, an emphasis on planning, collaboration all work in the Read/Write web. It's that they are amplified by audience which gives us pause. And this is universal: student and teacher.

I am going to ask them for feedback today regarding the questions raised yesterday, and I hope to blog it directly from class (or soon thereafter). If anyone would like to Skype in (pjhiggins1), we will be in class between 2:30 and 3:30 EST. Here is the link to what I will be going through. It's only an hour, so I am jamming a lot of stuff into that hour.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Summer Course Descriptions

I have been working on creating my summer course descriptions for the teachers in my district, and, like I did for the spring courses, I'd like to throw them out here for the potential of some feedback.

Do you Wiki? How to Harness the Power of Collaborative Learning through Student-Created Wikis Course Description: Several teachers in the district have begun to use the power of wikis to enable their students to work collaboratively on web pages centered around a particular subject or project. Sites that use “wiki” technology are turning the ideas we have held about online research upside down. A Wiki is defined as:

a type of web site that allows the visitors themselves to easily add, remove, and otherwise edit and change some available content.... This ease of interaction and operation makes a wiki an effective tool for collaborative authoring. The term wiki also can refer to the collaborative website itself (wiki engine) that facilitates the operation of such a Web site, or to certain specific wiki sites, ...and on-line encyclopedias such as Wikipedia.
Wiki technology lends itself inherently to collaborative learning and creation. The very idea that several students can work on a body of information both simultaneously, independently, and from any location where they have an Internet connection, immediately extends the classroom beyond the 40 minutes that we see them and beyond the physical walls of our classroom. Participants from any content area will benefit from the balance of student freedom and teacher control afforded by PBWiki. Some examples of projects that teachers using wikis have created are: classroom study guides for full and half-year courses and even individual exams, collaborative projects with other schools in other countries, choose-your-own-ending stories, and student-driven tutorials for all levels of mathematics.

This workshop will focus on creating a project or reshaping an already existing project to include a wiki. The goal is to have everything ready to go with the project so that when students arrive in September there is no time crunch and only their names have to be added.

Social Bookmarking with How to Organize your Links and Collaborate with Others Using Tags Course Description: How do we teach our students to manage information? How do we get them to look past the first two search results on Google? One of our biggest concerns as learners and educators is how we will keep track of the consistent rising tide of information available to us. What is good? What is trash? The rise of "Social Book marking," and "Social Annotation," on the Internet has created a new and relevant way to find pertinent sites, track information and share knowledge. Your “favorites” now can follow you to whatever computer you are on!, a leading social bookmarking site, allows users to depend on "the wisdom of crowds" by granting nearly full access to anyone's bookmarks and tags. If, for instance, a user is finding great material on a subject matter that you are interested, you can subscribe to their bookmarks so that whenever they find something and tag it, you will also receive it in your account. It's like having a team of researchers working for you!

In this workshop we will delve into the advantages of using "tags" to describe web pages and store them in an online account that is accessible and expandable from anywhere. This will allow you to work with colleagues by sharing a tag in common and build a repository of useful websites. The classroom applications then open up: can my entire class share this tag with me as well? Yes, and we will show you how to make this happen. We will explore two of the major social book marking sites, discuss the advantages of each, and learn how to use the "folksonomies" created within these communities by sharing our tags with other users.

The Power of Google Course Description: Wherever you turn in the news these days, Google seems to be up to another huge move. Whether it is acquiring YouTube for over a billion dollars, being voted the best company to work for, or introducing a suite of online applications to rival Microsoft Windows, Google is more than just a search engine.

In the last few years, the minds at Google have been busy creating applications that really, for lack of a better word, rock. Skeptics and converts alike agree that Google has created unbelievably useful and elegant tools for all people to use. Teachers are a main target for the folks at Google.

Google for Educators
are a series of free applications aimed at helping teachers integrate technology into their lesson planning. Are you a teacher searching for ways to have students collaborate on a writing project or a data collection? Google Documents and Spreadsheets, their version of Word and Excel, allows several users to work simultaneously on one document or spreadsheet. Are research papers a part of your curriculum? Google Notebook allows users to keep a running log of web pages they visit and make notations that are saved to a page in Google, so works cited lists become much easier to create. At the completion of the workshop, each participant will have their own suite of applications from Google to work with, and at least one classroom project ready to go!

Research 2.0 with RSS: How to get information to Find You
Course Description: Think about these statistics:
  • In September 2003, kids ages 2-11 spent average of six hours and 39 minutes online; in September 2006, that average had increased 41% to nearly 9 hours and 24 minutes. (ZDNet)
  • According to former Secretary of Education Richard Riley, the top ten in-demand jobs for 2010 didn’t exist in 2004. "We are currently preparing students for jobs that don't yet exist, using technologies that haven't been invented, in order to solve problems we don't even know are problems yet." - Karl Fisch
  • There are over 2.7 billion searches performed on Google each month.
  • The number of text messages sent ''each day'' exceeds the population of the planet.
  • The average kid, age 2-11, spends nearly 9 1/2 hours online per week(up 41% in the last three years); the average teen spends nearly 27 hours online per week (up 27% in the last three years). Adults age 18-26 spend an average of 12 hours online per week. The average family spends 3.6 hours online ''each day.''
  • There are over 700 million Internet users worldwide, 153 million from the U.S.
  • 77% of Americans are online. 52% of Internet users are women.
  • Education can no longer be about the accumulation of facts:
    • More than 3,000 books are published ''each day''
    • A week's worth of ''The New York Times'' contains more information than a person was likely to come across in a lifetime during the 18th century
    • It’s estimated that 1.5 exabytes (that’s 1.5 x 10 to the 18th) of unique new information will be generated worldwide this year. That's estimated to be more than in the previous 5,000 years combined.
    • The amount of new technical information is doubling every two years. That means for a student starting a four-year technical or college degree, half of what they learn in their first year of study will be outdated by their third year of study. It’s predicted to double every 72 hours by 2010.
    • Third generation fiber optics can push 10 trillion bits per second down one strand of fiber. That’s 1,900 CDs or 150 million simultaneous phone calls every second. It’s currently tripling about every 6 months and is expected to do so for at least the next 20 years.
    • Predictions are that by 2013 a supercomputer will be built that exceeds the computation capability of the human brain. By 2023, a $1,000 computer will be able to do the same. First grader Abby will be just 23 years old and beginning her (first) career ... (By 2049, a $1,000 computer will exceed the computational capabilities of the ''human race.'')
    Thanks to Eric Hoefler for these stats on his Research 2.0 wiki, which I plan to refer and link to often during this class and others.

The sheer amount of information available to makes the use of the word "overwhelming" an understatement. How do we gain access to the best information without being overcome? We need a way to filter as we mine the Internet for information. We need a way to make the Internet work for us. This is the power of RSS, or "Really Simple Syndication."

Simply put, RSS is a way to subscribe to content on the Internet and have it delivered to you on a regular basis. We use the word content to mean many things: news stories from magazines and online newspapers, blog posts, changes on wiki pages or online documents, Google searches, YouTube and Google Video searches, picture searches, and even tags. In this workshop we will work to make you a more efficient researcher and planner, able to find resources based on the work of others as well as yourself. When the school year begins, you will be more than ready to keep up with the topics you need to, and more on top of your research than ever before.

Administrator's Introduction into Web 2.0

Course Description: What makes administrators effective technology leaders? Do we need to be immersed in technology in order to promote its pedagogical resources within our buildings? While we all might consider ourselves to be at least proficient in various applications of technology, the pace with which it advances is unprecedented, meaning that our knowledge base must increase as well. Also, emerging social applications like MySpace and Facebook for middle and high school students, and Club Penguin for elementary school children have left a lot of us in the dark as to what our students are doing online and why they feel the need to connect in such a way.

This workshop will serve both the purpose of increasing knowledge of the pedagogical applications of technology within our district, and that of understanding how we can come to terms with the emerging social technologies that our student population is immersed in. Upon completion, you will have a working knowledge of solid strategies that you can pass along to your teachers during post-observation meetings; furthermore, you will understand the basics of social networking and see its positives and its drawbacks.

In addition to these, I was also thinking of having a blogging class, where we use one of the many blogging hosts out there to get teachers used to the idea of participating in meaningful online discussions. Since these sessions will be during the day in the summer, if any one out there is willing to Skype in, or participate in some way, I would be totally open to that as well.

Friday, May 11, 2007

What schools need to be

It may be my naivete in education, or just my all-too-positive outlook on the future, but I can't agree with Chris Lehman any more when we says the following on his blog today:
Here's, to me, one of the great paradoxes of education:

When we stop pushing the kids toward some idealized standard of
knowledge, but step back and support the process of growth and learning
and improvement, we actually stand a better chance to reach and exceed
that idealized standard.
I have worked in four schools now, one private and three public. One of the things I noticed was that expectation is what achieved high test scores. When the students were expected to achieve, and given a program that stressed quality work, they reached the levels that they should have, according to the state.

For a long time now, I have wondered what effect teaching to the test has on our students ability to think originally and solve problems.When we bring to the forefront the practice of test preparation, and subjugate critical thinking, what are we telling our students? I don't think its the message we want to send.

When you want to sneak some medication by your child, you mask it in something else, something that has meaning to them, like fudge.The same holds true with high-stakes testing and preparation for it. Do we want our students to perform well on these tests? Absolutely because our funding and our reputation depends on it. But we should disguise our test prep under the guise of curriculum that is rich, investigative, and inquiry-based.

The first public school system I worked in did a fine job of that. The students were held to high standards, of which they were all keenly aware of, and the curriculum that supported those standards incorporated aspects of original thinking and learning by student and teacher, rigorous standards that mirrored and even exceeded those of the state, and a requisite engagement level that the teachers had to meet. By this, I mean that the material the students were given was varied, and heavily influenced by Roger Taylor's methodology.

Those students far exceeded state averages of proficiency in all areas tested. And I can barely remember a day of test prep in regular education classes, other than letting them know what was expected of them. It's a leap of faith on the part of the teacher, the administration and the district, but it is akin to what we talk about here with technology. Chris mentions fostering an environment of support and growth in learning, and I think we would be surprised at how many schools out there are not ready to do that at the level that his school is.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

This is too valuable to pass up.

I haven't done one of these in a while, but I am glowing about Zamzar for converting files from the web, or from rare, stodgy formats into pliable ones.

For a while there I was having serious issues with videos from either Unitedstreaming, Google Video, YouTube, or TeacherTube that I wanted to use during classes. Sometimes they would play fine, other times there would be a huge delay as I streamed them from the web in school. Then, of course were the times they didn't play at all.

To get around this, I needed a way to convert those videos from the web into a file that could be downloaded and save to disk. Enter Zamzar. This free service will convert any video from the web into any other movie file format. For example, in the Digital Storytelling workshop last week, I wanted to show two clips from TeacherTube, but since they were so large, I knew it might be a problem. I simply went to the TeacherTube video site, clicked on a button in my internet browser that says "convert with Zamzar," then chose the file format I wanted the converted file in, and within minutes, I received an email that confirmed my file was ready to be downloaded in the format I had specified. Always have a backup plan.

If this sounds a little too techy for you, just imagine being able to have a back-up plan if you are trying to show a video from Unitedstreaming, Google Video, YouTube, or TeacherTube, and cannot access those sites directly from your classroom. Zamzar will let you have the video handy regardless of internet access.

Cross-posted at Tech Dossier.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

1:1 Learning and teaching

Rising out of the conversations that I thought I was having about virtual schools and arming our faculty with laptops is a wholly different, but not unrelated conversation about who we are as teachers, and who we are going to be.

The Liverpool High School 1:1 laptop failure has brought drawn lengthy grimace on the face of the edublogosphere, and a considerable number of "well, what did you expect?" from the more noted members of our community. Here's a smattering:

Andy Carvin at
I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve seen students using their
laptops in the classroom as if nothing else had changed, lined up in
neat rows, each laptop on a desk, with students listening to a teacher
lecture or taking a test on the laptop. Those aren’t laptops - those
are expensive pencils. Of course you’re not going to see
achievement improve when pedagogical practices aren’t rethought from
the ground up! Where is the boldness, the pedagogical imagination
required to put these devices to use to reach their teaching potential
- and students’ learning potential, for that matter?
Tom Kennedy on Andy's blog:

We must create the context in which 1-1 computing can be effective
by redefining what education looks like and how it is assessed. Until
then we will continue to see “islands of innovation” that prove
successful (usually because the rules of engagement have been
suspended) surrounded by expensive failures.

Technology can’t force a change in education, as I once believed it
could. Education must change first. Then we will begin to realize the
full potential of technology

Will Richardson on a note from
Note: There are so many potential reasons for this, but the basic reason is because learning with technology is simply not a systemic part of the K-12 curriculum. It’s not a part of the way we do business. Instead, it’s something we try to make work at certain times for certain purposes. And even then, we don’t fully understand the implications and potentials of the tools. Not surprising…is it?
The discussions I have been having in my physical world center on how to change the environment so that if we did move to a 1:1 initiative our pedagogy would be in line with what our technology was. Liverpool failed for all of the reasons stated above. My district would as well because our method of teaching, for the most part, is derived from a model that worked really well for a very long time, and, if all were to remain the same, would work really well for a longer time. We know, however, that our students are not going to let that timeline stand still, that they are making the needle jump all over the place. What do we do to make ourselves into seismologists capable of reading that needle?

Reinvent. I am leaning more in the direction of Tom Haskins when he writes:

An underground movement is recruiting subversives to replace the massive machine for the manufacture of controlled content. Must see learning as a growth process. Must demonstrate the envisioning of a botanical
process of planting of seeds that blossom into flowers. Insights into
ecological cycles, successions and transformations -- a plus.

Must have experience with industrial models of schooling. Evidence of switching from pushing content to pulling for the learners is a requirement. Context creators preferred over content developers. Must be able to win without a battle and not make enemies of power trippers who think they can make learning happen with "command and control" requirements.

An M.Ed in informal learning optional. Must show the abilities to have nurturing effects
on learners, to act like a learner oneself and to approach life as an
endeavor of continual learning. Evidence of significant personal growth
given precedence over stagnant or composting developments. Contact with
educational aliens taken into consideration.

When I survey my teachers, formally or informally, about their use of technology and the stumbling blocks to using it in the classroom, I get fewer responses about teachers not being able to handle the know-how. What I usually get is that it sticks out of the lesson too much; that it is too obvious and obtrusive. The goal is transparency, not only in what we are doing being available to all stakeholders in the community, but also in our ability to move from mini-lesson through speaking, to mini-lesson through Skyping the chemical engineer to further the point.

So, I can continue to rant about how people are not using the amazing technologies that we have available, or I can find ways to sneak it into their pedagogy. The failure of the Liverpool initiative, like others in the same boat, rests not on the students for their misuse or lack of performance on standardized tests, but rather on the school administrators and staff for failing to realize that a seismic shift needed to take place in their philosophy towards school. If I am fortunate enough to be in that situation, I will do my best to initiate change before that happens.

Who do we want to be then, the teachers who metamorphosize and are willing to dismantle only to rebuild? Or just the opposite? I know where I am going.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Teacher 2.0

I did the inevitable today: I marked all of the posts in my Reader account as "read" without first checking them. It's been too crazy over the last few weeks, and my daily ability to plow through posts has simply not been in the cards lately. We all have done it, I am sure, but this was my first, and I can't help but feel like a loser. Nevertheless, I have been thinking...

Most of my posts lately have had to do with this idea of a virtual school, and this one is slightly about that topic, but more about just plain teaching. I met up with my colleague/superior/sounding board the other day to play a little intellectual ping-pong regarding what we need to have happen for this virtual school to become a reality. Among the zillion things that we elaborated on, the most influential point came when we began imagining the staff that we wanted for these classes. It felt like a flashbulb when he said it, and I don't think he knew what he said: "We need teachers that are performance-driven." What that translated as to me, is that we were looking for the teacher that transcended the bureaucracy that often plagues the public school system, the myriad forms of student malaise, and really got into the faces of students intellectually. I got more and more excited as I thought about what types of teachers we needed; teachers that thrived on chaos, that were reflective in times of high levels of uncertainty, and that were always, regardless of popular opinion, willing to reinvent themselves for the sake of learning.

The more I thought about this type of teacher, the more in line with everything we read and write about became meaningful. The examples we can pull from our blogrolls? Clarence Fisher, Konrad Glogowski, Vickie Davis, Cheryl Oakes, Clay Burell, etc. How easy is it to not change, to rail against all of the pressures, standards, national and state assessments, and not look for something better? Very.

Teaching will be different, and this will happen very soon. Teaching will require that we are risk-takers, savvy, and cavalier. Teaching will be different, or it will be irrelevant.