Category Archives: education

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.

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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 🙂

Retreat Reveiw

It’s been a whirlwind few days with not much time to sit but I just wanted to write a few notes about our faculty retreat on Monday. Overall, a success. First off, the “technology” part of things went without a hitch – the network, the laptops, the email server. I had to do little or no tweaking along the way – major relief. Secondly, the day was received very well and most comments from the day were extremely positive.

It started with “Dialog A” – a conversation about Ken Bain’s book, What the Best College Teachers Do – we had that conversation in three different modes: a live, f2f conversation; an online chat, fishbowl style; and a group of “bloggers” responding to prompts on a blog.

In the second part, “Dialog B”, we had a live, f2f conversation with five people involved in the chat and five bloggers and they were talking about their experience in Dialog A. The rest of the group was split into 2 online chat groups, fishbowling that conversation.

Finally, in the last session, we had a live group talking about good teaching and how technology supports it while the rest of the group was blogging response to a summarizing post from our Head of School who had observed all facets of our first 2 dialogs. whew.

You can imagine the chats were a little chaotic – faculty members who had never been in a chat, trying to type and process all at the same time. They did well, some were frustrated and just sat back to observe; some tested the waters a bit and admittedly got better at it by the end. Those that happened to be in a chat group back-to-back said it got a lot easier by the second chat. I have to admit that we made the chat groups too big – there were about 9 or 10 in a group – there probably should have been 4 or 5.  Those that blogged really liked it and immediately could see it’s benefit in the classroom.

Of the comments we received at the end of the day, one really struck me. Part of their comment read:

I somewhat resent the fact that I read and underlined the d–n book and never got an opportunity to discuss it!

I guess for this person the day went right over their head – their idea seemed to be that if they weren’t involved in a live dialog, then no dialog occurred.  Oh well, I guess we can’t hit everyone the first time.

We had a wiki to record the day and serve as a resource for the school year.  Our hope is that the “good teaching” blog we set up for the day will serve us all year as a place to continue the conversation we started.  Take look.  We welcome and encourage outside voices to join us in this conversation.