Category Archives: education

Social networking is…a good thing

A MacArthur funded study was just released regarding the activities kids are involved in online.  It’s an interesting read for all educators and parents.  They conclude that the “hanging out”, “messing around”, and “geeking out” that kids do online helps students gain media literacies and skills they will need to fully participate in the 21st Century society.  Here’s a quote from the summary of the report:

New media allow for a degree of freedom and autonomy for youth that is less apparent in a classroom setting. Youth respect one another’s authority online, and they are often more motivated to learn from peers than from adults. Their efforts are also largely self-directed, and the outcome emerges through exploration, in contrast to classroom learning that is oriented by set, predefined goals.

In the conclusion, the report goes on to say, that schools (and parents) should not see social networking as a waste of time:

Rather than seeing socializing and play as hostile to learning, educational programs could be positioned to step in and support moments when youth are motivated to move from friendship-driven to more interest-driven forms of new media use.

Another point made in the conclusion is that kids find learning from their peers highly motivating:

Peer-based learning is characterized by a context of reciprocity, where participants feel they can both produce and evaluate knowledge and culture. Whether it is comments on MySpace or on a fan fiction forum, participants both contribute their own content and comment on the content of others. More expert participants provide models and leadership but do not have authority over fellow participants.

And finally, the report concludes with this (among other) question:

what would it mean to think of education as a process of guiding kids’ participation in public life more generally, a public life that includes social, recreational, and civic engagement?

You can access the summary “white paper” or the entire report here.

A few tidbits

I haven’t had a lot of time to write these days.  School is winding down and end-of-year details are winding up: budgets, purchasing, NCLB applications, and many, many events.  I wanted to share a few things that I’ve read and watched lately:

The first, in following with the end-of-year theme, is the commencement speech by Barbara Kingsolver.  I’m a big fan of hers.  I really enjoy the humor she injects in to her writing (and this speech) as well as the content she writes about.  If you haven’t read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle yet, I highly recommend it.  Here’s a quote (from the more serious side of her speech):

In the last 30 years our material wealth has increased in this country, but our self-described happiness has steadily declined. Elsewhere, the people who consider themselves very happy are not in the very poorest nations, as you might guess, nor in the very richest. The winners are Mexico, Ireland, Puerto Rico, the kinds of places we identify with extended family, noisy villages, a lot of dancing. The happiest people are the ones with the most community.

The second piece is a video called “Learning to Change” by the Digital Arts group at the Pearson Foundation for CoSN.  It’s another video that you should show to  teachers and stakeholders in your schools.  Take a look:

Powerpoint and beyond

I enjoy reading and watching Dan Meyer’s blog.  He is a truly innovative teacher and I am constantly sending his material to our math department.  Yesterday, he posted a recent presentation to teachers about Powerpoint and how to use it successfully.  Throughout the presentation he also mentions a number of lessons from his class – a great demonstration on how visual cues can capture the attention of all.  Click here for the Quicktime version.

Art on the brain

A few weeks ago we devoted a professional development day to the performing arts. It was a great day with a mix of a keynote (Ellen Winner, professor at Boston College), mini workshops, and a panel of alumni and professionals. The day was designed to raise awareness about making more room for art in the academic day. I came into the day with thoughts that we should be integrating more art into the traditional curriculum but I left with thoughts on how the traditional curriculum (english, math, science, history, language) should take some lessons from the way we teach art. In general, art classes focus more or depth rather than breadth; reflection and collaboration are routine; and effort and risk-taking are central to assessment. I would like to see more of these attributes in other classes.

Speaking of art, there is a great conference in April put on by the Maine Dept of Ed. It’s called “Arts, Innovation, and Creativity.” There are loads of workshop offerings; here’s a quote from the conference write-up:

Workshop sessions will include:

  • over 30 hands-on creative and imaginative professional develop opportunities;
  • interdisciplinary connections between the arts and creative thinking in other Maine Learning Results content areas utilizing technology;
  • innovative instruction, curriculum and assessment;
  • a link between at least one arts discipline (music, dance, theater or visual art) and at least one other content area from the MLR’s (Career and Education Development, English Language Arts, Health Education and Physical Education, Mathematics, Science and Technology, Social Studies, World Languages);
  • unique learning opportunities for educators utilizing technology to impact teaching and learning for all students.

Check the website for details on the workshops. And best of all, you get to spend 2 days in beautiful Rockport, Maine and the cost of the conference is only $45!

2 New Tools

Just a quick post about 2 new tools that came up this week:

Google Sites – Google’s answer to wikispaces.  I haven’t used it yet but it seems to have many of the same features of wikispaces and I imagine in plays nicely with the other Google Apps.

Jottit –  An easy way to publish on the web.  Wiki-like but a much more simplified interface.  Seems to be good for text but you do have to add markups to add photos and formatting.

I’ll give these a try – I’m always game for new tools.

Evolution of English

I stumbled across this video through a post by a Columbia professor (former Bowdoin professor). The video was created by the chair of the Rutgers University English Department, Richard Miller. He makes a compelling argument about how the study of English has to evolve with the read/write world. In it he says of the study of English in the networked world:

(the study of English) excels in human expression and in the study of human culture related to human expression – we should be the place that’s at the very cutting edge of education for students in these areas.

I am glad to see more and more conversation happening in the higher ed world.  It would be nice to engage in a k-16 conversation rather than separate k-12 and 13-16 conversations. Watch it and see what you think.

Have you tried Voicethread?

I’m working on an agenda of workshops for the rest of the school year. One tool that I’d like to get teachers excited about is Voicethread. I’ve now seen it used in a number of ways with a variety of grade levels and it seems that it can be a tool that can be added just about anywhere. I’ve been reading about many teachers using Voicethread successfully (and enthusiastically) with their students:

Jeff Utecht talks about Voicethread in Art classes.

Wes Fryer post about a Voicethread project in an elementary school in NY

This post using Voicethread’s commenting feature to gather ideas on how to use Voicethread

I think the classroom opportunities are endless:

  • In Lower School, classes can use Voicethread with their own class pictures to create a audio/visual newsletter. Especially in the younger grades where students cannot write yet, this would be a great tool for the kids to use in order to better express themselves.
  • In Science classes, students could use Voicethread to document an experiment – a kind of visual lab report.
  • In Math, students could use Voicethread to narrate their way through solving a math problem in order to demonstrate their understanding.
  • In English class, they can put original poems or short stories to pictures.
  • In Art class, Voicethread can be use a tool to reflect on their work.
  • In Foreign Language, kids can create stories or tours using Flickr images and narrate them in their language.
  • In History, they could use use flickr images in a digital narration of a historical event.

I am looking forward to teaching some teachers about this wonderful tool and getting some kids excited about using it.  What are some ways you are using it?

Now what?

I’m sitting in the Philly airport with about 40 minutes left on battery. My brain is overflowing with thoughts and ideas that I’ve taken away from EduCon 2.0. Though I still need time for reflection, I have four main takeaways from Philly:

1. The students: What ever we do, it’s got to be about the students. We need to listen to them, have conversations with them, and help them develop. That work was quite evident at SLA. I was amazed at the number of students that took part in the weekend – SLA students “worked” all weekend manning video cameras, taking part in the sessions, setting up lunch, keeping us full of coffee and donuts, and more. When they were called randomly for their input, they gladly (and comfortably) gave it. You could tell that they felt part of the culture of the school and they were proud of it. (Nice work Chris and all the SLA teachers).

2. Keep having the conversations: We are all agents of change and we need to engage with others in our schools in conversations about teaching. Change will not happen quickly (probably slower than we wish), but it will not happen if we don’t keep talking the talk and walking the walk.

3. F2f conferences are necessary for re-energizing: EduCon2.0 came at the right point in the year for me. I was a little worn down and frustrated from the lack of adoption or even the lack of interest in adopting new tools by some teachers in our school. Going to EduCon2.0 pumped me back up again, gave me renewed hope, and a confirmation that what I am doing is not only important and worthwhile, but also necessary.

These are all thoughts I want to expand on later, but I wanted to get this on “paper” before my flight home.

Thanks again to Chris and company for all of their work on this wonderful conference.

Online Culture

I watched the PBS Frontline “Growing Up Online” last night (as I’m sure many of you did). I was glad to see that it was less of a “doom and gloom” look at social networks than some other shows have been. I do, however, think it could have done a better job of relaying the positives of these networks for kids. In reading the discussion posts, you can see how parents quickly grab on to the negative stories and apply them across the board. There must be a way to show the positives – the friends, the networks – that students cannot find in their everyday f2f life. As well as show the positives in education and professional lives.

What is clear to me is that we need to keep educating parents about the Internet. I only do one or two parent nights around Internet safety but think I need to do several more.  Ahhhh – just add that to my list 🙂