Thursday, June 28, 2007

Two Great New Developments at Two of My Favorite Tools

The folks at Google have responded to external pressure or internal drive and added some key features to Google Docs and Spreadsheets. For a more complete review, check out the write up at the Official Docs and Spreadsheets Blog. My favorite features are that folders have now been introduced. I wasn't a big fan of the tags feature, especially when trying to show teachers and students this as an option. I also like the new visual appearance of the site--much more aesthetically pleasing than the old version, which had some DOS feeling to it.

What's missing for me is the inclusion of the chat function from Spreadsheets in Docs. Admittedly, I use Docs much more than I use Spreadsheets, so that feature is lost on me. I was really hoping to see it migrate to Documents.

Also, PBWiki has just leaped ahead in the race to capture K-12 audiences in my book with their partnership (I think) with YackPack. This allows users of the space to collaborate and converse at the same time using the same interface. They have also pulled in a spreadsheet application and the ability to plan and organize an event, plus sell tickets! I haven't explored these yet, but I plan on doing so prior to my summer wiki workshops. This would be beneficial, perhaps to something like Clay's Global Chilling Project.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

My NECC Strategy

Being that I am on the outside looking in, I've tried a few approaches:

  • I took all of the tags that were associated with NECC proper (NECC07, NECC2007) and did a Google Blog Search for them, then I subscribed to the feed for that search.
  • Next, I did the same for Technorati
Note: This has caused a fair amount of double-dipping, but at least I am getting some good intel.
  • I also took a gander at Steve Hargadon's blog where he labeled each of the sessions with specific tags. Any session that I would have attended I grabbed the tag and did a Google Blog Search and aggregated it as well.
What this has given me is a general picture of what has been occurring; however, the main aspect that I am lacking, or was until about three hours ago, was the conversations that were occurring. The secret there? Twitter. I have resisted for too long, but could no longer. My resistance was not due to a perceived illegitimacy, but rather due to a fear that this would pull me further into a life that I was not comfortable with just yet. The amount of time I am spending in front of my machine here has increased significantly in the last few months. My feeling was that if this was going to pull me further down that rabbit hole, it wasn't something that I thought I could do.

Watching, reading, and listening to the activity surrounding NECC this past week has convinced me that this is another tool that will have some use for me, especially in a large group collaborative session. I love how someone, I think it was Jeff, claimed that Twitter has emerged as the "backchannel" for the conference.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Using Data to Initiate Change

I know this might sound simple to some of you, but I have recently started trying to visualize some of the data that pertains to what I do here.

In a nutshell, what these pictures do for me is provide a measuring stick to judge against for next year. Also, when I really begin to analyze what I need to do for next year and plan to build consensus, these numbers tell me where to start, and who to build on.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Educational Heroes

I pulled this image from Ben Wilkoff's Academy of Discovery Wiki, and he attributes it to the folks as Science Leadership Academy, but is something I think everyone involved in education should examine.

Let's take a look at some of the words that are used to describe and "Educational Hero" in this picture:

  • Provocative: the first on the list, and for good reason. What is someone in education if not provocative. By nature, information is meant to incite in us something that lay dormant or underutilized. Giving our students access to such provocation is an act that we need to do often.
  • Risk-Takers: We teach our students to take compositional risks, to make cognitive leaps, and to attempt to connect several disparate ideas into one usable and coherent whole. Why should we as teachers not be doing the same? By nature, our approach should be daring, and variable based on "teachable moments."
  • Balance-Freedom-Guidance: I like the inclusion of these words, and of "nurturing," because if nothing else, our students need to feel valuable and safe before they can take the risks that they need to. These words, these actions are what makes it easier for learners to reach from the solid ground of what they know towards that which is shaky, unknown, yet incredibly valuable.
  • Humble: When I work with teachers who are trying to shift away from being the sole arbiters of information in the classroom, I always stress humility over the stress of trying to know everything. Being grounded, centered and comfortable with the idea that you do not have all the answers, and that these students can help you continue to learn, makes it all beautiful, doesn't it?
  • Want to be like them: Perhaps the highest compliment anyone in education can receive. With the omnipresent stream of role models of ill-repute, being someone that learners want to be "when they grow up" is no small feat. I remember the moments that some of my past teachers did something amazing, showed us a door that we didn't know existed, and then thinking back to it years later as I was doing the same thing to a group of students. It is high praise indeed.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Kind of Blogging that Makes you Sweat

The other day I posted about Cathy Wille, a Phys Ed teacher in our high school. She's been really pushing her professional development this year, and after a year of looking at the direction of her teaching, the curriculum, and the technology available to her, she has taken the first, and most important step: she has a blog.

The first thing I do when I tell people about blogging is to bring up a statement that I heard from Will Richardson, and I know I have echoed before: this is the best professional development available. I have learned more from blogging and interacting than I could have anywhere else. It's about access to wicked smart people whenever you need it, and I love wicked smart people.

Cathy is still feeling out what she should do with the blog site: whether it should be for driving her class or building a new platform for Physical Education and Health teachers to move to. Often times, that department of schools is the least likely to bring technology into their practices, if only because of the lack of portability in the past. A cursory blog search turns up a few hits, like PE Central, which serves more to aggregate news stories concerning developments in PE. That is essential, but can we do more for this discipline?

Is it possible to gather a slew of resources for Health and PE teachers to use if they choose to? If you have any, we could pass them on to Cathy's blog. If you can, go visit her at HyPE 2.0. I'll start:

  • g-maps pedometer- mashup that allows users to plot and store their running, cycling, or walking routes on a Google Map. I use this one all of the time.
  • NationMaster and it's partner-site StateMaster- provides great statistics for health units, including the always elusive STD's.

It's Coming!!

News today from the Read/Write Web about Google's latest acquisition. Soon enough, we will see the Google Office suite!

This could be a potential cost-saver for many schools and businesses, especially if the price remains free.

Saturday, June 16, 2007


We have done quite a bit this year regarding moving our teaching to another level: we've introduced the read/write web into our teacher's lexicon and their tool kits; we've shown the power of using social bookmarking; we have shown them how to aggregate feeds and bring their research and planning to a new level. But that is me talking--that is what I think we've done. Over the next few days, I am going to try to include some teacher reflections on what they have seen this year.

Note to all: I did not solicit these in the form of asking for performance reviews on my part. Nor am I posting them for any reason than utter transparency. That some of them may reference me is in no way meant for self-promotion or ego inflation.

The first one here is from Jo, who along with Erica (whose quote follows hers), worked together on Ambertangerine, a wiki used as a book discussion. She has been a mainstay at my professional development classes since last summer and has made some amazing discoveries. She brings such a great teaching style to the classroom, and technology is just one way she uses to reach the students:

This year, I believe that I have crossed the line. I used to be the teacher who used bits and pieces of technology while integrating the curriculum. This year, however, I feel confident that I can use new, advanced, and innovative technology with my students. I am able to understand that students today learn differently and deserve to be taught differently than my generation. I have been fortunate to have the support of Patrick Higgins and Erica for these endeavors. Their expertise in technology has helped me to develop an interest and willingness to further my knowledge in this area as well as to strive to integrate more technology into my lessons. I have participated in several technology courses offered by Patrick Higgins, and I plan on attending more throughout the summer. This is only the beginning...
Erica came to me this year with so many ideas to implement in her classroom, and was one of our first teachers to utilize Lecture123 effectively:

This is what she had to say about her experiences this year:
I think it is important that if you are teaching “digital natives” you must be a digital native yourself, at the very least. To be even more effective, you must be a digital pioneer, always one step ahead of the students. This year was the first year it didn’t feel like I was integrating technology in my classroom, it just was a seamless part of everyday instruction and assessment, almost completely invisible. A big part of that comes from having an ingenious technology coordinator to work with. Teachers often have great ideas, but have trouble implementing them due to lack of time or technology. However, with the support of a technology facilitator such as Mr. Higgins our dreams of technology integration became a reality greater than I could have imagined. Best of all, the students became global citizens and digital pioneers themselves.
I have noticed a lot of others in this sphere have been doing this as well, and I think it is truly important for tech coordinators to allow teachers to articulate what they are learning, just as I believe in that for students.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Goodbye Status Quo

We are taking steps. Slow, measured, and tender steps towards changing the philosophy in our school. The diagram above (thanks to Scott and his whole Change Week agenda) typifies the stages that organizations go through as they accept innovation and change.

Last week we opened our tablet program to our high school staff. As of this posting, over 30 teachers have responded to the initial invitation to the roll out. That is roughly 30% of our high school teaching staff that has accepted the offer to use tablet PCs in their classroom. Looking at Lucas' chart above, that tells me that we are moving in a great direction right off the bat. However, that number needs some clarification: as I analyze the list, a small group of the teachers are regulars in my professional development classes, while others I have not really worked with all that much. That is not to say that those I have not worked with are not ready to begin using the tools that I teach in my classes--we all have met those teachers (and we actually love them) who are effective with little input from tech coordinators because they are learners themselves and figure out what they needed to do. Most tech coordinators, myself included, probably fell into that category when and if we taught in the classroom. So as for our early adopters, that number falls down into the single digits. As a first step, I am excited with the turnout.

I had a great meeting today with a member of our Phys. Ed/Health Department who has been one of the early adopters in our school. We talked for over an hour about how we can change the overall attitude students have for health class. She is familiar with the tools that I hawk, for lack of a better word, but she hit it squarely when she used the word "ownership." She was referring to how to hook the students into a learning process by asking them to give it value and meaning. There are myriad ways to do that through our pedagogy, and we discussed the possibilities that did not include technology: guest speakers, community service projects that require the students to affect local change, etc. We laid out an ambitious project that we are hoping will accomplish the goals we have in mind for her health classes.

When I left the conversation and went on with the rest of my day, I kept coming back to the ideas we spoke about and I was recharged, ready for summer, and ready to push that bell curve further to the right. It was great to have a conversation that was charged with the willingness to try, to change and possibly fail. What I took from the exchange was more than anything a glimmer of hope that people do not want the status quo.

What Can We Teach the Hive Mind

I have been enjoying the discussions going on over at the Brittannica Blog immensely these last few days. Thanks to Joyce Valenza for pointing me there.

Of note today is the final quote from Gregory McNamee in which he states what I believe is the truest challenge to all of us out there, not just the scholarati:

The challenge is to teach consumers of information how to
distinguish the good from the bad, to recognize that junk data is as
bad for the brain as junk food is bad for the body.

Failing that, the future belongs to the hive mind and a new kind of person indeed.

McNamee makes his title reference clear throughout his short post: Maoism and the Mass Mind. What I wish is that someone would explain to me the dreadfulness of individualized search for meaning and education through reflection. The statement that

"Totalitarianism begins at the moment when bad information drives out good information, when the idea of expertise is tossed out the door in favor of the vague idea that anyone’s opinion is as good as anyone else’s. Totalitarianism requires ignorance.

is so unnecessarily inflammatory. Mr. McNamee, instead of decrying the dearth of expertise, teach your students or employees how to create it in the manner that you require.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Gap

From Michael Gorman's Web 2.0: The Sleep of Reason on the Brittannica Blog:

The difference is not, emphatically not, in the communication
technology involved. Print does not necessarily bestow authenticity,
and an increasing number of digital resources do not, by themselves,
reflect an increase in expertise. The task before us is to extend into
the digital world the virtues of authenticity, expertise, and scholarly
apparatus that have evolved over the 500 years of print, virtues often
absent in the manuscript age that preceded print.

Admittedly, when I saw this come through on Joyce Valenza's blog, I thought it was going to be an indictment of all things that rely on the wisdom of crowds. However, this quote stood out for me as something more than the theory of "the rising tide to lift all boats." It has validity, and I think it clearly defines what our push for new literacies must strive to do: make all of our learners ethical, thorough and utterly discerning citizens.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Philosophy for sale

Scott McLeod's spate of posts which he put under the umbrella term of "Change Week," really kicked over a hornet's nest in my shrubbery, so to speak. If any of you are like me, the really huge problems in life, I tend to avoid, and the really big ideas I usually tend to share them with more connected people. Recently, however, I feel that this is changing within me, and I want to reel in these bigger fish while I am at the helm. This is in no way a power trip, but I feel that I am able to work toward greater goals at this point in my life.

The schools I work in, up until about three years ago, fit the description of School 1.0 perfectly. With some diligent work and some innovative teachers, that all began to change, and more and more resources are becoming available for teachers to change the way they approach their teaching. In beginning to use some of the recommended tools that Scott talked about in his posts, I realize that we are in the middle of a philosophical shift, and need to be guided through to the end. That is where I come in. I am an agent of change. Sounds all cloak-and-dagger, and I dig it.

Looking at the big picture is daunting: we have major reconstruction going on, and we have a lot of trust to gain back after a year of spotty network coverage and unreliable, often aging machines. To allow this to remain a setback, and not spring over it would be simple; I have a core group of teachers that religiously take the classes I offer and implement some great strategies in the classroom. However, I have to look at this differently--according the improved, big-game hunter version of myself, this is something I must see through.

That's not to say that the obstacles of mistrust and physical space will be overcome next year, or even the year after. They may not be. That core group of teachers, my agent provocateurs, if you will, will go a long way towards tipping the scales in favor of philosophical change.

One thing did strike me as notable in one of Scott's posts. Scott, pulling from their 2005 Phi Delta Kappan article, Can Schools Improve?, Christensen, Aaron, & Clark speak about changing current public education systems, quotes:

Our current system is . . . incapable of changing itself. Most people know – even if they are loath to admit it – that it’s easier to start from scratch than to try to salvage what’s already there. We may wish otherwise, but we ought not to be wishful thinkers. Systemic, transformational change in public education can only happen if we are willing to start from scratch.

At this point, I am going to refuse to buy into this one. That may be my naivete, and although it is waning, my youthful optimism still weighs in fairly heavily that effective and inspirational leadership coupled with sound pedagogy and goal-setting can bring about a shift in how schools and all members of the school community view themselves.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

I'll take Eliot Smith, The Replacements, and Advanced Particle Physics Please

Explaining the significance of my stumbling onto iTunes University this weekend to my wife was pretty hilarious. She loves me and tolerates me, but it must have been too much for her to hear me signaling the end of the traditional college education as being upon us. We had a good laugh as I regaled her with tales of how much money we would save on the kids' college education. I mean, how much does 30GB iPod cost? Certainly much less than the loans I am still paying off.

iTunes University is a collection of podcasts and vodcasts created by university professors and made available for free. Free university lectures on topics that I can choose from? Unbelievable. This is where it begins to get interesting for me. I have always wanted to design my own course of study, and this begins to allow me to do that. Add this to the idea of a personal learning environment and I can begin to see how it is completely possible to be the driver, even more so than we can be now.

We are equipping some of our teachers with tablet PC's and wireless projectors next year, and in designing the things that I think they will need next year, this fits really well. I love that they can break from what they might have done in the past, i.e. show a movie, and break out Professor so-and-so from Vanderbilt who is discussing the very same topic they are learning about, but has a different spin, or better resources. Powerful.

Question: is it too intimidating?

Friday, June 8, 2007


The gentleman that runs our monthly meeting, Ned Davis, just came out with a quote that I thought was interesting regarding the students he teaches at St. Elizabeth College. He was decrying the multitude of resources that they have to sift through in order to get the correct information for their research:
"There is just so much crap out there!"

This, to me, makes a great case for literacy to be revisited at ALL levels of education. Even students who have grown up immersed in technology and are ready to enter the world are often not equipped with the ability to deconstruct multiple sources and recognize validity. Ned's students, confronted with multiple resources might be struggling because the literacy skills they have accumulated in the academic environment do not fit the types of media and information, or even the amount of information.

How do we teach discerning students? What are some methods we are using to do this in our classrooms or seminars? We talk about digital literacies, but what are some tried and true methods?

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Thursday, June 7, 2007

Presentation at NJECC

Today two teachers that I worked with on a recent wiki project are presenting at NJECC, and I just threw together a quick presentation using spresent. Also, below is a podcast of the interview their students did with author Edward Bloor.

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Tuesday, June 5, 2007

There is some hope for me...

I posted this on my Tech Dossier site the other day to show how the new teacher's took to some of the Web 2.0 technologies that they saw. I was really trying to build on the word of mouth popularity I was hearing from people in the building--the new teachers liked what they had seen and been able to do.

Yes by Which Technology will you use most? vs. New Teacher Workshop Survey Need more professional Development

So, in analyzing this graph, I can see that the most easily adaptable technology was, the social bookmarking site. More people planned on using it, and they did not require additional professional development on it. Conversely, videoconferencing proved to be the least adaptable after the workshop, and the teachers voted that they needed more professional development before they were comfortable using it. That will shape a lot of what I do with the new teachers next year. It also shows me that there is interest in things like wikis and blogs, but the learning curve appears to be a little on the high side, and that is OK. That is why we have professional development classes and it's also why when teachers add technologies like that, I work closely with them until they are comfortable.

We met with our technology committee today to discuss a few things to wrap up the year and plan for the summer maintenance on all of the machines in the district (we are switching over from an antiquated network to a brand-spanking new one). Also on the agenda for today was a discussion of the training needed for our teachers who are piloting our tablet PC rollout this coming fall. Now, I make it sound like it is a huge plan based solely on the fact that we want to start putting laptops in the hands of teachers, and at heart (well, my heart) it is, but in actuality it is being done because we are entering a three-year construction schedule for our high school. The teachers who are moving to a portable classroom are being issued a tablet PC and a wireless Epson projector in lieu of all of the machines they will lose in their rooms.

Always glass half-full, I look at this situation as a turning point for our district; if this group of 30 or so teachers can find success with these machines, rolling them out to the rest of the staff, and ideally the entire high school, will be that much easier due to the initial buy-in. But in recent weeks, we have been regaled with stories of poor planning and implementation programs causing egregious wasting of taxpayer dollars on technology that was doomed to fail. So, my selfish agenda at the tech committee meeting today was to get a feel for what the high school teachers on the committee saw in the way of training needed for those going to the tablets.

What I got was a great list of ideas, all based on the level of proficiency with the technology. Some of the teachers moving to the tablets are at a point where using a laptop in front of the students is not something they would feel comfortable with. Others will take the machine, plug in and just go like they have always had it. My idea is to do two things: for those that need extra training, start with basic uses and applications to give them success, aiming for an in-class usage percentage of about 50%. With the other group of teachers, I have loftier goals:

So you have been issued a new tablet PC and you are teaching in a modular classroom this year--what now? The machine you have at your fingertips has the ability to change the way you approach your classroom, much more so than a regular laptop. Sitting in front you is a traveling interactive whiteboard, a mobile production studio, and the biggest productivity streamliner you have ever encountered.
I want to show them ways to actually make that portable classroom more technologically advanced then the room they came from.

If you have any ideas in this regard, please feel free to pass them along.

Image Credits: "Cuneiform Tablet," allanimal on Flickr, "Tablet PC," Calixto el octavo satélite de Júpìter on Flickr

Sunday, June 3, 2007

This will make you stop in your tracks

Saw this last week at Microsoft's site, but Popular Mechanics brings in Jeff Han's perspective as well.

Can't wait to see where this goes.

Framework for planning

One of my goals for next year is to really move forward in the area of changing our philosophy from one of "how can I add technology to this lesson," to one in which the technology was planned for as the lesson idea was hatched. As it is now, on evaluations or yearly reviews, a staple recommendation is to try to integrate technology into the lesson or into the curriculum as a whole. I have noticed a semantic shift lately in the blogosphere, away from the word "integrate" and towards something altogether more holistic, like "embed" or "underlie." Until this shift takes place within the mind of the subject area teacher and building administrator, I truly believe I will be working on a Sisyphean problem.

Planning for this to happen will involve a shift in philosophy for me, as well. My primary focus will continue to shift from plugging holes and putting out fires, to one where I am more concerned with meeting with teachers and spreading ideas. Thus, the processes of planning and steering become priorities above all else in this new model. David Jakes via the Techlearning blog shared his framework for planning, which I thought was brilliant and clear. Here it is in it's entirety:
First, the technology use should support a fundamental literacy that the school or organization believes in.

Second, the use of that technology must extend the
lesson, or learning, to a place that could not be achieved unless the
technology had been included. In other words, there must be a
value-added component to the inclusion of the technology.

And finally
, the use of technology must be framed
within a pedagogically sound instructional approach-without that, the
first two are meaningless.

So, after reading this, I came up with a quick to-do list
  1. First things first, what are the literacies that we believe in in my corner of the globe? I don't know that I have ever sat down and tried to articulate what types of literacies are important to our students. Where do I start with that?
  2. If I analyzed every project I worked on this year, what would the ratio of projects that had technology added for the sake of doing it v. projects that were authentic, where the technology took the learning to a place that could not have been reached without it? This is something to look into.
  3. What were student reactions to newer versions of projects? Relying on actual data from students should be an integral part of every project, just as important as any other facet.
  4. How were the teachers and myself bringing this to the students? In just a cursory glance backward, I can see several instances where we pushed an pulled too much on the students without giving them requisite freedom to explore. The approach has to be wide-open next year, where we approach each project with the idea that the learning is open-ended.

Jakes goes further into how he develops these ideas by listing his essential four literacies:

  • Be able to connect.
  • Be able to create.
  • Be able to communicate.
  • Be able to collaborate.
I earmarked these for several different topics that I plan to cover this summer, most notably any contact time I have with building administrators in the form of workshops or meetings. To me, these four are the quintessential starting blocks for planning with any teacher; all other curriculum can easily fit within these guidelines.

Image credit:
Vidiot, "Sisyphus." Online Image. March 25, 2005. June 3, 2007 .

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Year-End Evaluation

While reading Jeff Utecht's latest post, entitled End of year summative self assessment, I thought that the questions his supervisor provided for him to answer were a great starting point for some reflection on my part as well. So, here are my answers if Jeff's supervisor were asking me the very same questions.

1.What has been your greatest success this year? Have you been successful in meeting your professional goals? What specific examples can you provide?

There were many things that I accomplished this year that I had set out to do, and many more that grew out of what David Warlick would call "side trips." Here is a short list of things I am proud of:

  • Wikis
    • Our district now boasts ten active wikis on wikispaces, where in September when I took this position, we had none. I promoted them as a collaborative learning piece and as a way to extend the classroom beyond the 40 minutes we have with our students.
    • One of the wikis took a page directly out of Will Richardson's book in that we invited the author to participate in the wiki and then Skyped him in at the completion of the project to answer student questions. This went a long way towards humanizing writers for the students.
  • Professional Development Classes have been revamped in the district and infused with a learner centric focus. The key for me was to move away from the "make and take" philosophy. That works really well for elementary school teachers, but middle and high school teachers weren't responding to those workshops. I focused the classes on making the teacher more productive and efficient in their own research and planning using Web 2.0 tools, with the idea that this summer and fall, we can move the skills they became comfortable with to the students and into the classroom.
  • Leading by example. For instance, I wanted my staff to become familiar with blogs and connective writing, so in addition to this blog I started something called the Tech Dossier, which highlights useful sites and more importantly teachers who are using technology in their classrooms within the district.

2.What has been you biggest challenge this year? How have you adapted your professional or personal practice to meet and overcome this challenge? Do you feel you were successful? Why?

Again, I don't think this one can be solved without resorting to list format:
  • Getting teachers to buy into what I am trying to help them do. Essentially, my job is about helping teachers use tools to make them better at what they do. The various road blocks that teachers put up to stop that process (see "180," by Barry), or the road blocks that are put up independent of the teachers, really cause me spin my wheels at times.
    • This issue was apparent more so at the high school than at the middle school, which could be caused by a variety of factors, one being severe network issues that scared many teachers away from relying on the technology to work.
  • Managing the information v. time continuum was a real problem. Even with great tools like Google Reader and Notebook,, and Diigo, the amount of great information always trumped the time I had to reflect on it.

3.What has provided you with the greatest joy in your work this year? How have you found your work enjoyable?

The discovery of work as play once again invigorated me in every sense. As I wrote in an open letter to my children the other day

Your future is not just my responsibility as a parent, it is also my responsibility as someone in the position to institute real change in the way we understand and execute the processes of learning and teaching.

My real hope for you is that you discover what I have recently discovered about working: it has to be grounded in the same ideas you are using now at your ages. Discovery. Mistake. Attempt. Attempt. Attempt. Failure. BooBoo and ouch. Play. Build. Create. Mix. Smear. Mess.
The amount of problem solving I did in this school year was three to four times as much as I had done in the classroom. That may be an indictment on my teaching style, but this year presented myriad problems of all shapes and sizes. Some were really techie, and I had to reach way above my head to solve them. Others were a matter of finding the right tool for the job/project and applying it successfully. But every one of them was unique and refreshing.

4.Where do you go from here? What is next for you as a professional challenge for next year? Look ahead and predict what type of goals you would like for yourself in the 07-08 school year.

This next year is about instituting philosophical change within the buildings I work in. There is a core group of teachers in both buildings that are all in and willing to change the way they approach teaching in the 21st Century. My aim is to build within that group, prop them up to the rest of the staff and cause an epidemic. To that end, I would like to create a blogging community within the buildings for these teachers to share ideas, link out to other teachers in similar positions, and model what 21st Century learning is to their students and to their colleagues.

There are several things next year that I need to dedicate myself to, projects that need monitoring and growing and some serious thought. A virtual school should be a feasible option for our students by the end of the 07-08 school year. Our teachers, administrators and office personal should be masters of the SIS that we use. And our schools should be connected to information, in the words of MediaSnackers: "Whatever, Wherever, Whenever."

Friday, June 1, 2007

To My Children

Dear Parker and Audrey,

I have been meaning to write to you about your futures, but the pressure has not really mounted, being that neither of you can read just yet. However, the ideas and thoughts I have about your futures are beginning to overwhelm me at this point, and I felt that I should at least commence something in the way of a letter to your future selves.

On the way to school today, you and I were talking, Parker, and you asked where the yellow school bus in front of us was going. My answer, without thinking, was of course, "to school." But you were quicker than that and immediately asked "why?" My answer was to tell you that it was taking the kids to school so they could learn.

As soon as I said it, something in my head clicked. That was the wrong answer, or at least the wrong syntax. The way I said it to you implied that school is exclusively the place where you go to learn, and that could not be further from the truth. This is true today, and will be increasingly more so as you and your sister get older.

Your future contains aspects that no future has ever contained before, the most key being something we call ubiquitous access. What that means is that you will be able to learn, gain access to, and process information from any location you are in: a school, a city sidewalk, running through the woods with your father. That changes things more than you can imagine. For your mother and me, when we wanted information, or wanted to learn, we had to physically move ourselves to where that information was. In most cases, it was school, and in special cases a library, museum, or artistic event. Your future will give you the opportunity to seize an idea at any moment and go with it, unhindered by physical constraints or the constraints of individuals who might want that information for themselves.

The biggest shift for you in relation to my comment about the children going to school to learn: you will have more teachers than your mother and I did combined. Your teachers will be accessible to you at any time and will come in the form of professionals in the field of study you are interested in, databases and visualizations that people create for you, and yes actual teachers in your school who are connecting to teachers of their own to continue to learn and explore. Your learning cycle will not stop arbitrarily at age 18 or 22, but will be continuous throughout your life and will be filled with several careers combined into one. Where your mother and I were taught to be concerned with facts and linear thinking, you will be taught to find patterns, see bigger pictures, and connect ideas that bear no resemblance to one another on the surface.

I know that it was just a question that you asked, Parker, and in twenty years you will not remember it at all, but to me it signified something larger. Your future is not just my responsibility as a parent, it is also my responsibility as someone in the position to institute real change in the way we understand and execute the processes of learning and teaching.

My real hope for you is that you discover what I have recently discovered about working: it has to be grounded in the same ideas you are using now at your ages. Discovery. Mistake. Attempt. Attempt. Attempt. Failure. BooBoo and ouch. Play. Build. Create. Mix. Smear. Mess.

I love you both.