Monday, December 31, 2007

Change “Music” to “Schools” and…

Education for DummiesIt’s no secret that the music industry has played hardball with users of filesharing networks. Leaders in the field worked hard to ignore the fact that those who swapped files via BitTorrent were also the greatest purchasers of music. Now it seems that Big Music may be crumbing just like the Berlin Wall. It seems Edgar Bronfman, head of Warner Music has signaled a change of heart:

“We used to fool ourselves,’ he said. “We used to think our content was perfect just exactly as it was. We expected our business would remain blissfully unaffected even as the world of interactivity, constant connection and file sharing was exploding. And of course we were wrong. How were we wrong? By standing still or moving at a glacial pace, we inadvertently went to war with consumers by denying them what they wanted and could otherwise find and as a result of course, consumers won.”

Although I work with many creative and innovative teachers, capital E Education doesn’t seem to get that the last couple years has witnessed a transformation: schools are now islands of resource impoverishment whereas homes, Starbucks and McDonald’s - Education for Dummieswith their broadband WiFi access - can be a better place for the motivated learner to get on with what they love. A great quotation from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi points toward a better response for Education than fighting to maintain a crumbling status quo:

The claim is that if educators invested a fraction of the energy on stimulating the students' enjoyment of learning that they now spend in trying to transmit information we could achieve much better results. Literacy, numeracy, or indeed any other subject matter will be mastered more readily and more thoroughly when the student becomes able to derive intrinsic rewards from learning. At present, however, lamentably few students would recognize the idea that learning can be enjoyable.
Thus, the abiding truth: although not everyone loves school, the joy of learning is universal. Now is a good time to lead with this strength.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Inspired and Engaged by Authentic Learning in 2007

With the countdown towards the end of 2007, comes a time of reflection for many. Some include those reflections in their annual holiday greeting cards; others are more private. Time Magazine reflects on the year in many ways including announcing its Person of the Year. This announcement started me reflecting on the folks that have influenced my life (personal and professional). One remarkable educator came to mind as someone who inspired me and many young minds during 2007—Nilah Cote (a fifth grade teacher at Sheldon Elementary School).

Nilah Cote could easily be counting down the days ‘til retirement… but instead she is counting the days until a new projector comes into her classroom. “I don’t have much time you know”.. she reminds her Tech Director that she is retiring in a few months. Nilah is frantically trying to squeeze in all the teaching and learning she can in her last days as a public school educator. With 38 years in the classroom, Nilah has not grown tired of looking for opportunities to engage kids in authentic learning.

Early this spring, Nilah asked me for help picking out tools she would need to podcast with her students. She had never tried podcasting, but had a vision of students interviewing community members about the impact of the 88 acres of forest that surrounds their school and community and believed that her students could become stewards of their forest.

The unit (Stewards of the Sheldon Community Forest) started with 45 seconds of silence, when long-time journalist, Nat Worman, explained to a group of fifth graders that ‘listening’ was the key to a good interview. Prepared with the tools and skills needed to conduct a good interview, the students traveled to different parts of the forest to learn from their community. “This is like an adventure..” they noticed and dubbed themselves the Woodland Investigators. These fifth grade students are learning that editing an interview also requires lots of listening as they use the free program, Audacity, to prepare their interviews for publication. And when the first student to publish her interview using the free service PodcastPeople shared her first podcast, the quiet resumed. You could have heard a pin drop, when the sound of the interview echoed in the room and pride beamed across her face.

Authentic learning brings joy, excitement, successes, and sometimes frustrating setbacks – as when the shared folder containing all their interviews disappeared from the network. But knowing that a real audience awaits their product, students are busy remixing the audio files (which thankfully still existed on their voice recorders). Ms. Cote has never let mishaps discourage her from being a pioneering educator who desires to truly engage students in real learning. Even though my retirement is a long ways away, I so hope that I will be like Nilah Cote days before my retirement as an educator.

I can’t wait to hear more interviews from her students, and read the forest management plan her students are working on using a class wiki. To hear Nilah tell her story of the Stewards of the Sheldon Community Forest project, listen to this short interview conducted using Gabcast – another free tool that allows you to create podcast from phone interviews.

Why not use the comment section of this post to share (or tribute) someone in your educational network as a powerful influence to students or fellow educators during 2007. The editors of Time are quick to point out that their pick for Person of the Year is not a contest, it is not an endorsement; nor is it necessarily an award –it does, however, identify someone has had a strong influence on the world around them. Surely many educators come to mind. Why not tribute them here.. don’t forget to include links (if appropriate).

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Google Announces Open Source Contest for High School Students

You're going to have to excuse me for gushing, but Google continues to win my loyalty because of their just plain willingness to work on good things. There hasn't been this much commitment to a "way" of being since two other guys built a company out of a Bay Area garage.

Yesterday Google announce their "Highly Open Participation Contest," a follow-on to their amazing "Summer of Code" program for college students--but this time for high school or "pre-university" students. From their announcement on the Google Code blog they described their "new effort to get pre-university students involved in all aspects of open source development, from fixing bugs to writing documentation and doing user experience research:"
While we're very excited about many aspects of the contest, the best part is that everyone can participate. Contestants must meet the eligibility requirements, but anyone interested in helping out can simply suggest a task to be included in the contest. Our contestants have a chance to win t-shirts, cash prizes, and a visit the Googleplex for a day of technical talks, delicious food and a photo with our very own Stan T. Rex.

Want to learn more? Check out the contest FAQs and tell your favorite pre-college students to pick a task or two to complete. You can always visit our discussion group to get help or share your thoughts.
I've been talking about Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) in K12 schools for a few years now, and it has been disappointing to me that so few of the individuals or companies committed to FOSS or benefiting from it seemed to be interested in helping promote its use for educational purposes in K-12 schools. I'll frequently ask my audiences of educational technologists why Apache, MySQL, PHP, and/or Python--all current building blocks of the Web, and which can be obtained for free and run on older computers--aren't being taught in schools. You'd be amazed at the answers, from the understandable "they don't have a marketing or support budget" to the fascinating "if we knew how to use them we'd be working for a Silicon Valley company" (not sure that's very representative, but it has been said). Given the choice to either teach "Free" programs that don't require high-end hardware (and that are likely to lead to actual employment if wanted), or to teach expensive, proprietary programs that require faster computers (and that don't often build employable skills), I'm always surprised at how little FOSS is taught in schools.

It's also interesting to note that many of the Free and Open Source programmers I've talked with in my EdTechLive audio interview series got started programming in their early teens. I don't think that's unusual, and I think we often forget how significantly engaged a young person can be. So, some major kudos to Google for starting this program. Now, the next step will be to see if we can get the students to come and present at next year's K12 Open Minds conference!

(Cross-posted at

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Google Apps for Your Domain in Education

“Google the Jelly Rolls;
Become a Jelly Rolls expert;
Connect to other Jelly Rolls fans;
Create your own content and contribute to the global knowledge base about the Jelly Rolls;
Plot the band's tour on Google Earth and create links on theKMZ file to your blog posts on the shows…”

instructs Google certified teacher, Kyle Brumbaugh, as he sets the scene for students to begin their own 21st century learning experience using powerful Web 2.0 tools. The Jelly Rolls are a fictional punk rock group, that Kyle uses to help students visualize the strategies and skills they will need to participate in Global Communication- a program aimed at making students better consumers of the content they have access to in an online world.

The interdisciplinary program includes Social Studies, Language Arts, and Health working on content standards using topics from Globalization to Digital Citizenship. The program provides an excellent model of integrating technology to produce a learning experience that would NOT have been possible without today’s technology. It also models a way to meet several of the new ISTE National Education Technology Standards for Students

Capuchino High School has adopted Google Apps for your Domain as one of several tools used to implement the Global Communications program. The program uses tools that expand the circle of influence these students have outside of their local community by helping them connect and collaborate. Google Apps for your Domain provides the school with several powerful Google tools, while allowing them to keep their own school domain name: and allowing them to keep control of the student accounts using a web based control panel.
According to Kyle,

“The kids have access to the Gmail function, with chat turned off, docs
and spreadsheets and their own homepage (iGoogle) that they can customize.
Wealso allow them to use the calendar function. The students also use this
e-mail account to create their 'blogger' accounts. Every kid in the Global
Communications classes has their own blog. The next step in the process
for some of them is to start to use reader to subscribe to feeds. “

On the opposite coast, a Vermont school district has taken a different approach to adopting Google Apps for your Domain. Rutland South Supervisory Union started with administration, then teachers, and are now piloting student accounts. Looking to move away from maintaining his own in house post office, network administrator, Jayson Casavant examined outsourcing. The Google Apps for Your Domain free education access resulted in a substantial savings per year for his district. He set up trial accounts for each of the admin team then sent several weekly "google tips" for them to experiment with. Prior to the roll out to staff, he built an extensive addition to our web site offering FAQ's, tips and instructions for the staff.
Jayson feels the change has been well received by his district...

“Having a web based solution has offered our staff more flexibility than our
previous client based solution. Docs and spreadsheets is widely used as are
email and calendaring. We have currently rolled out roughly 100 students as a
beta test and plan to offer email to more going forward. All in all we have
found Google apps to be user friendly and easily scalable to our needs.

Meanwhile, a group of students from Burr and Burr Academy's Research Lab are hoping their district will follow suit. Adam Provost's students have created a proposal for their school to adopt Google Apps for Your Domain. The solution is currently pending, but Adam and his students are hopeful that the school will consider their proposal. They feel that

“Google for Domains makes a wild amout of sense. Have a company offer a
school free email, a management console, collaboration tools, integrated web
2.0 services and spam filtering...for free ? Using your own domain name ?
This program saves schools money and also all configuration and maintenance
time. Reclaiming that money and personnel time alone... Good problems to
have in my book. Most schools are barely scratching the surface educating
kids for the present day. Embracing opportunities and technologies like this
in secondary education, discussing and modeling these technologies instead of
limiting their experiences will bring us closer to educating students for
the future - where they'll be working. “

Best of luck to these pioneering students and other schools as they venture into Google Apps for your Domain as vehicle to provide tools that transform the way we teach and learn.

Friday, November 09, 2007

EdubloggerCon 2008: The Collaborative Conferences

Last year's EduBloggerCon in Atlanta, the all-day meet-up of educational bloggers, was a really fun event. EduBloggerCon and the NECC "Bloggers Cafe" were watershed events in some ways--the physical gathering of educational bloggers and the real-time conference collaborating and communication helped to raise expectations about ed tech conference participation. Whether they led, mirrored, or followed (maybe a little of each) the dynamic changes in networked learning that are taking place in the world of Web 2.0 for educators, they definitely generated an excitement about gathering and learning together.

So it is great fun to announce that we'll be having EduBloggerCon meetings in both Palm Springs (California) and San Antonio (Texas) in 2008, with the great and appreciated support of CUE and NECC. CUE, in fact, is sponsoring a whole series of Web 2.0-style additions to their conference (including a cool social network) which I'll be posting about shortly--and EduBlogger Con "West" will be Wednesday, March 4th, 2008, in the Palm Springs Convention Center in Palm Springs, California. NECC is also graciously hosting again, and the mothership EduBloggerCon 2008 will be Saturday, June 28, 2008 in the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio, Texas. Both events will, of course, be free, and maybe we'll even get a sponsor who'd be willing to swing for lunch (anyone?).

The wiki pages at for both events will be up shortly, and we'll follow the pattern of letting anyone propose discussions they want to facilitate, and others indicating their interest levels in those discussions. And we'll build in ample time for informal discussions. While we've called this an "unconference" before, I think it's really better identified as a "collaborative conference," and hope that you will consider joining us!

(cross-posted from

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Outsourced Brain & Educational Change

socrates vrHere's another post that might be filed under the heading, "Educational Change: Oxymoron?"

David Brooks' Op-Ed piece "The Outsourced Brain" in the New York Times is a must read for educators. Beginning with a GPS goddess that gently steers the author in the right direction, Brooks goes on to invoke his use of calculators for math (a given), iTunes for musical selection, search engines for memory of spot knowledge, smart phones for all the personal details we used to memorize, and finally syncing it all together with the wisdom of crowds that actually makes such "choices" with more validity than most of our own decisions.

It's a fresh look with a bit of tongue in cheek, but what I love is that there's plenty of common sense that's obvious for any who live much of life "enhanced" by the New WWW (90% of those between 12 and 25?). What I find interesting is that many teachers object on something like moral grounds: "it's just not natural," "not the way it should be," "isn't what was good enough for us," etc. These comments remind me of two anecdotes related to change. First, we know that Socrates objected to writing as it would diminish the power of the brain and oratory. The fact that what this wisest of men said was true didn't alter the outcome: tablets, papyrus, scribes, Gutenberg, newsprint, paperbacks, Webpages, etc. "Digging in" against change "on principle" is no more valid than excusing ones self due to skill deficits or technophobia. Professionals work within reality to continuously improve what they do.

The second anecdote I'm reminded of springs from the complaints made by the parents of many of today's veteran teachers during the last Generation Gap. The complaints could have been about Rock 'n' Roll or cohabitation. Even though parents in the 60s didn't like these seismic shifts, they are now mainstream: The Beatles are Muzak and living together the norm. The point of this minor rant is that many in education have to get over the "liking it" delusion. Not liking the firestorm doesn't dampen the flames, but turning your back on it is likely to get you burned and place our children at risk. Maybe part of the trick is learning to live in a reality that seems so unreal?

cross-posted at

Monday, October 22, 2007

A 14-year-old Talks Educational Technology

"Arthus" is the web name of a 14-year-old student in Vermont who has recently become actively involved in the online dialog about educational technology. I find his voice an interesting--maybe a critically important--addition to the discussion. To me, Arthus is not representative of most 14-year-olds, but is representative of the kind of independent, engaged, proactive, and self-directed learner we often think will thrive in the flattened and connected world of the Internet.

Now the big question: will the use of Web 2.0 and collaborative technologies do more than just highlight intellectually mature youth, and actually help to promote, encourage, and support this learning style? If so, are we ready for it? Some of what he says is going to be very hard to hear for teachers, and will feel threatening--maybe especially because of its accuracy. It's one thing to hear a teacher say some of these things, it's quite another to hear them from a freshman in high school. How would the learning environment of 9th grade, for example, have to change when you have a classroom full of youth this intellectually independent?

  • Arthus started by seeing someone with a blog, and then starting his own. Was a technical interest, then moved to the subject of education. Started at age 11, HTML websites at 12, PHP at 13.
  • Really likes Twitter.
  • He thinks that schools teach students to "fear technology" and to really only use it for limited things and not for deeper conversations.
  • He doesn't feel that he is any danger in the web. The only precaution he takes is the pseudonym. Has never had anything weird happen to him on the web.
  • His school has a good number of computers, and is relatively well-funded, and even though they buy new computers every couple of years, the teachers don't engage with them or use them actively in the classroom. Would really like to see his school go to a 1:1 laptop program.
  • Outside of school he spends "quite a few hours" a day on the computer. He is not a gamer, though.
  • He feels that his life is in balance. He does school clubs. He feels comfortable turning off the computer to do other things. Believes that not using games (a "strict" rule he made for himself) has helped him not become "addicted." (Pretty self-disciplined!) Feels that one of the most important things is to have a "set task" when you get on the computer.
  • He was the one who decided to use a different name online to protect his privacy, but his mom is glad he did. Even though his mom doesn't personally use technology very much, she is very understanding of his interests.
  • Twitter is the "realization" of his network, since you can see what everyone is thinking and doing. You can also ask questions--almost like a "better Google." Twitter is not distracting to him. He feels he can ignore if he needs to, and he also purposely limits the number of people that he is going to follow. He's been blogging for a year, but once he got on Twitter it was amazing how interactive things became.
  • Doesn't like MySpace (interface is "shoddy"). Likes Facebook. Can easily eat up 30 - 60 minutes a day on Facebook. Uses Google Docs (formal things) and Zoho Notebook (planning). Uses for social bookmarking. Hasn't used wikis very much. Uses Feedburner for tracking. Uses Quizlet.
  • Is considering doing a student-run session at the SLA EduCon.
  • Most of the people he knows who are older just use email and search, don't do any of the "pro-sumer" aspects of web. But same could be said of his own generation--many use social networking, but not other aspects.
  • He's interested in education because he is in the education system right now. Feels that when students come to school their (technology) "tentacles" are cut off. He knows that there is bad stuff out there, but the problem is that we are fearing the technology instead of the content.
  • If teachers are worried about the use of laptops in class for things that aren't related to class, then maybe teachers should be thinking about why students wouldn't be paying attention. Students should have an option of whether they want to pay attention. It's not a given that students will pay attention if you are not talking about something they care about. This whole technology is really good at bringing out the flaws that might be in the system.
  • The current learning system--one task, one person teaching--will just not be relevant in the future. And it's not reflective of what college or work life are like. The education system owes it to students to prepare them for that world. We shouldn't necessarily be teaching the tools, but teaching the thought processes that go into them. The teachers owe it to themselves and their students to be learning these new Web technologies.
  • If he had to pick one technology for an educator to start learning, it would be Twitter. It is the easiest one to use, and is so powerful. Also, if he had one message for his high school teachers for the next four years: they really need to stop being so disconnected from the technology. It's not about learning the knowledge, but the thinking.
  • He has a cell phone, but he doesn't text. Doesn't have a text plan, so it would be expensive. He doesn't watch TV, but watches some NBC shows online. He has an iPod video, but he's never bought a video--the screen is to small. He has 3,965 songs on his iPod--would be twelve straight days to listen to all of them. He listens to his iPod constantly, all day long, whenever he can. He doesn't feel that having the earphones in stops him from socializing. He values face-to-face speaking a lot.
  • He does worry about youth using technologies for "stupid" purposes: YouTube videos that shouldn't be public, that you wouldn't want a college administrator looking at. Has never seen an example of cyber-bullying. His computers at home are not filtered, and he runs the "networks" in his home.
Arthus blogs at

(It is important to note that I spoke with Arthus's mother prior to conducting the interview to make sure she was comfortable with this level of exposure. )

Cross-posted from

Listen to the the Interview in MP3 format
Listen to the Interview in Vorbis OGG format

Saturday, October 20, 2007

More Tips for New Classroom 2.0 Teachers

My last post provided practical tips to help teachers manage the integration of Web 2.0 tools in the classroom. An invitation to pioneering educators to share their strategies generated a wealth of resources for teachers aspiring to use these tools. Thank you Ms. Mercer for referring us to Scott McCleod’s Moving Forward Blog. Greg’s 10 steps to help teachers to use these tools themselves before asking kids and Clay’s 10 must have Web 2.0 accounts are a great complement to Andrew’s Web 2.0 Tutorial for teachers and Barbara’s prolific perspective as a school administrator on her Dare to Dream Blog.

I’d like to offer a very special thanks to Candace for turning me on to Teachers First –which not only offers some very practical tips for first time teachers but also maintains an incredible database and review of web 2.0 tools specifically aimed towards teachers who “want to try tools but cannot envision the how and why.” This one goes right at the TOP of my recommendations for all teachers starting their journey towards School 2.0.

As promised, here are just a couple more tips that I’ve found to help you proceed on this journey.

  1. Read the terms of service of the tools you would like to use. These terms are often difficult to sift through, and I’ve been guilty of reading them too quickly. When in doubt contact the company and ask for clarification. (Example: In some cases, where it is not acceptable for a 12 year old to create their own account on a system, it might be acceptable for them to use a teacher’s account within a supervised classroom environment.)

  2. Take some time to get familiar with the legal parameters that schools must comply with. Make sure someone in your school truly understands CIPA, COPPA, and FERPA and that the conversations that guide the development of policies, practices, and procedures in schools relating to Internet use is not based on fear and misconception. Much needed teacher voice is sometime lacking in this process. After reading this FAQ from SafeWiredSchools and similar information sources, I became more confident in my ability to make responsible professional decisions about classroom management strategies that used Web 2.0 tools.

    CIPA is the Children's Internet Protection Act, and was passed in late 2000. It requires schools and libraries receiving certain types of federal funding to filter or block Internet access to "visual depictions" of material that is obscene, child pornography, and when minors are using the computer, material that is harmful to minors.

    COPPA is the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, and was passed in 1998. It requires commercial Web sites oriented to minors to get parental permission to collect personally identifiable information from children under age 13.

    Your school’s legal advisor should be able to clarify ambiguity, and offer support and protection for educators seeking to use web 2.0 tools.

  3. Create a classroom set of logins for your favorite Web 2.0 tool that you as a teacher keeps control of for your class. Google Certified Teacher, Kyle Brumbaugh, sent me this video tutorial he found in Google Certified Teacher Forums that allows teachers to easily create classrooms sets of logins without creating new emails for most Web 2.0 tools. However, I can't see a way to avoid creating a new gmail account to access Google docs for a each member of my class. Yet, this method did allow me to create those student accounts quickly using my teacher gmail account as the "required" alternate email account. As a teacher, I consider myself to be the one entering into a partnership with Google (not the students) and I would only do this with a group of students where I was willing to accept the responsibility for supervising my students' behavior. I would also take the additional precaution of setting up a forward rule on each student gmail account, so that all mail gets forwarded to my teacher account. You can then use the "filter" method suggested in the video tutorial to keep this mail organized.

A big thanks to readers who came forth with such wonderful resources to encourage our colleagues who are almost ready to take the plunge. Keep those ideas coming; readers like J. Allen are particularly looking for those strategies that work for younger children.

P.S. In an upcoming post, I’d like to feature educators who have found Google Apps for Your Domain, the key to classroom management in a Web 2.0 world. Drop me a comment if this tool has worked well for you.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Create a Permeable Classroom - Part I: Google Docs Presentations

Over the past few weeks educators around the globe have discovered some powerful new tools. Google added presentations to their web-based office suite, which already had word processor and spreadsheet components. Also, a wide variety of services now allow users to create their own streaming video "channel" using just a webcam and an Internet connection. These tools make it easier than ever to give your students an authentic audience for their work - and to bring their peers or content area experts into the classroom. This post is the first of two. In this post I'll share about Google Docs presentations and in part II I'll share several services that allow you to create your own streaming video shows.

Google Docs Presentations

Google Docs (formerly Google Docs & Spreadsheets) now allows mulitple users to view or edit a presentation online. Users can create a presentation from scratch or import and then share an existing Powerpoint presentation. Surprisingly, these presentations are also a way to bring an international learning community into your classroom. Here are some of the benefits and limits of this new tool, followed by some early educational examples.

The Benefits
  • Web-based: File storage, editing, and even the final presentation happens right on the web. This means that your presentation (or a student's presentation) can be accessed at school, at home, or on any other internet connected computer. You can edit from anywhere, and even present anywhere. There is no need to worry about software versions or compatibility when you move from computer to computer - and no need to worry about paying for software or updates.
  • Collaborative: Users can edit or view presentations from multiple locations... simultaneously - or asynchronously. This means that students can complete group work from their own homes, and you can collaborate with other classes world wide, all without worrying about juggling multiple versions of a document via email. This also means that students, teachers, parents, or others around the globe can virtually "attend" a presentation online.
  • Backchannel Chat: During an online presentation, participants have a chat "room" to the right side of the presentation slides. This allows face-to-face participants the opportunity to interact with each other while the presenter is speaking. Presentations can now be interactive, and many more students can participate via text than they can via voice. More importantly, it allows peers and experts from around the world to interact with the class. These two things enable a shift of power (and authority) away from the presenter to the students and to other experts around the world. It is a compelling new sort of presentation experience, particularly if visitors are actively included as part of the presentation.
The Limits:
  • Computers and Google Accounts Needed: A presenter can project the presentation on a large screen as they would with powerpoint, but obviously for face-to-face students to take advantage of the chat room functionality they will need to have their own computers. Also, in order to participate in the chat students (and any virtual visitors) will need to login using a Google account. Naturally, anyone who wants to participate in collaboratively editing the presentation will also require a Google account. Google accounts are free, but do require an email account and a registration procedure.
  • No Archives & Limited Export: It is easy to get information into Google Docs, but not nearly as easy to get information out. The chat transcript is not (or at least no longer) archived, and it cannot be cut and pasted. (Screen capture programs can be used to save a chat as an image or video, though.) Also, although you can import PowerPoint presentations into Google Docs, it will not export PowerPoint presentations. It will only export a zipped html file that will allow you to run the presentation in a web browser when you are offline.
  • No Audio, Video, or Screencasting: If you are attending a presentation remotely via the web it is easy to follow the presenter through the slides, however you cannot see the presenter or hear what they are saying. Also, if the presenter shows other programs or sites to their face-to-face audience, you cannot see these remotely. In short, Google Docs does not provide any streaming audio or video and does not provide any screen sharing or screencasting features. This makes a Google Presentation of limited effectiveness for remote attendees... unless a third-party application is used to transmit audio, video, or the presenter's desktop. This is where several new streaming video services might come in useful.

In part II of this post, which I'll share next week, I'll discuss the benefits and limits of new services that make it easy for anyone to stream video using a webcam. In the meantime, here are a few examples of pioneering early uses of Google Presentations in education.

  • Google Presentations - A presentation about Google presentations, originally created by Vicki Davis and forty (40) other educators around the world! This presentation actually serves as an introduction to using Google Presentations, including ideas for classroom and professional development uses.
  • ES PTA Presentation - A presentation about Web 2.0 tools for parents, including the benefits, concerns, and proactive strategies for safety (based on the Internet Awareness presentation which I created for the Laguna Beach USD under a Creative Commons Share-Alike license). Kim Cofino presented this to parents in Bankok, with an audience of educators from around the globe contributing in the backchannel chat.
  • BTC Interview - A presentation that Jennifer Jones used during a job interview - using the presentation she brought her online learning network to the job interview with her! She explicitly involved "the network" by including prompts in small text in the lower corner of most slides. This is a good model for being sure the online audience can participate and contribute to the presentation, even without streaming video or audio.

You can also read my personal reflections about these examples and about Google Docs presentations in general at Google Docs Presentations: Limits, Benefits, and Questions.

If you've tried Google Docs presentations with your students, or if your students have already used a Google presentation themselves, please leave a comment (and a link). We'd love to hear your story. If you've got other stories about your own learning with Google Docs, we'd love to hear those as well. Please leave a link to any blog posts you may have written on this topic yourself, too. And of course, feel free to leave questions or other comments about this post.

Check back next week for Create a Permeable Classroom - Part II: Live Web TV.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Tips for New Classroom 2.0 Teachers

Every veteran teacher knows that the first 6 weeks of school are the key to success for the rest of the year. The tone you set in your classroom and the practice of routines you establish with your students are key to creating a successful learning environment. Yet, despite 6 weeks of ‘practice”, classroom activities don’t always go as planned and when unplanned chaos takes over, teachers regroup, come at it from another approach, and often seek the advice of their peers. Thank goodness for veteran teachers who are willing to share tips like those found at Middle Web’s First Days of Middle School.

These wonderful ideas have been built from years of “experience” in Classroom 1.0. The educational technology world is filled with advocates for Classroom 2.0 who share the opportunities of Web 2.0. But some are starting to ask questions like “Why are more teachers not flocking to use Web 2.0 tools?”

Maybe, what teachers need is some really concrete tips and strategies on ‘management’ in a Classroom 2.0 learning space. Pioneers of Classroom 2.0 are ‘experimenting’ themselves; not all these experiments work exactly as planned. We need to remember that not all teachers or administrators work in an environment where they feel safe or supported to be pioneers in such a public arena as Web 2.0. This is much different than trying something new inside your own building or classroom. Fears of legal repercussions fuel environments that are not supportive of implementing a Classroom 2.0 model.

Perhaps those of us who do work in supportive environments should not only share our stories in terms of the opportunities that Web 2.0 bring us as a learning community, but we should start to put together a page filled with tips and strategies that teachers interested in using Web 2.0 tools could use to get started. These tips would also benefit IT Staff and School Administrators who would be more supportive of Web 2.0 tools in education if they could see a collective inventory of concrete classroom management (or risk management) strategies.

So in that spirit I’m going to start with three Classroom 2.0 management tips and invite other pioneering educators to comment with their own advice. Remember that what might be obvious to a seasoned Web 2.0 teacher might not always be obvious to a “first year” newbie interested in creating a Classroom 2.0 learning environment.

  • Create more than one email account using web based services like Gmail or Yahoo Mail that you can use to sign up for web 2.0 tools.

  • Start by limiting your use of Web 2.0 tools to inside your classroom until you feel comfortable that your students understand the rules for using these tools. Just like students need “practice” to learn what it looks like and sounds like to take a trip to the library, they will need your guidance to visit a virtual location such as a class wiki. And don’t give up if one of your students steps out of line, anymore than you would give up going to the library.

  • If your students are under 13, consider signing in using one of your alternate web based email to register for a “classroom” account to a Web 2.0. tool. You can then sign in “yourself” as the teacher to a tool (like a WIKI) that you want your students to contribute to OR you can give them the username and ‘password of the day’ to sign in and make it part of your daily routine to change the password at the end of the school day. Many Web 2.0 tools stay logged in once you have signed in, so you might only have to do this once a day.

I’ll post more ideas in my next post but for now let’s hear your tips

(Photo Credit)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

News Flash!

Kristin Hokanson is a technology integration mentor in Upper Merion, Pennsylvania, and she recently introduced me to a great Flash-based videoconferencing tool called Flashmeeting. Flashmeeting is very easy to use from both meeting attendee and meeting booker perspectives. The interface allows for one person at time to speak using audio and video. Other meeting attendees can text chat at the same time. Link and file sharing, voting and virtual whiteboards are some of Flashmeeting's other features. Meetings are recorded and can be viewed again at a later time. These replays are editable, and meeting minutes containing the chat log, voting records, files and URLs. These can also be saved PDFs.

To book a Flashmeeting, you must jump through a few hoops and fit certain criteria as Flashmeeting is part of a research initiative at the Centre for New Media within the Knowledge Media Institute at The Open University in the United Kingdom. Data from meetings are used for research, so you must agree to having events recorded.

A week or so ago, I booked my first Flashmeeting as a meeting space for a Ning I
created, the Global Education Collaborative. Sunday night's meeting was a trial run for me. I thought I had booked a meeting for Sunday, September 16th, at 8PM CST, but I actually had booked it a day earlier as FlashMeeting's server is on UK time. Of course, they caution users about this, but I obviously didn't quite get it. Just prior to the announced meeting time, I scrambled to schedule another meeting for the correct time, and shot off the new meeting URL to potential attendees. Fortunately, about 10 or so people popped into our conference over the next two hours and great connections and conversations ensued.

Sharon Peters of LEARN was one of the first people to join the conference, and this Canadian is a treasure trove of knowledge. She has experience to back up her ideas about global education, and she cited many resources of which I had not previously been aware (view the replay to find out her recommendations). I was multitasking during our Flashmeeting, and I noticed Kim Cofino, the Elementary 21st Century Literacy Specialist at the International School Bangkok in Thailand, submit a message via Twitter, a sort of group instant messaging service. I sent her a direct twit with the link to our meeting and she subsequently joined us, fresh with ideas from the Learning 2.0 conference in Shanghai, China. I also noticed my friend, Westley Field, from Sydney, Australia, online via iChat and quickly sent him the link to our meeting. He joined the conference and told us all about his work at the MLC School and with Teen Second Life.

Early in the meeting, Sharon said that global collaborations happen when people
develop personal connections. If that is a criterion for successful projects, then I think Flashmeeting definitely can facilitate the necessary relationship building.  It was a truly invigorating online meeting, and you can see for yourself by watching this edited replay. Check out the meeting notes,too, for a flurry of URLS that were shared. I look forward to holding more Flashmeetings and connecting with educators world-wide. Let me know of your interest by stopping by the Global Education Collaborative ning site and leaving a message!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Tech Savvy Learning Communities (a la Moodle)

"The daily working life of most teachers is one of unrelieved time pressure and isolation; they work, largely alone, in a classroom of 25-30 children or adolescents for hours every day." Prisoners of Time. National Education Commission on Time and Learning. April 1994

Since this publication was released over a decade ago, many technological tools have emerged that have potential to relieve the isolation and combat the lack of mutual time to plan, converse, and reflect that teachers so desperately need. In her article "Professional Development Through Learning Communities", Kathleen Fulton talks about how the same forces that drive us to use technology to create learning communities for students, "offer the opportunity for new models for the professional growth of teachers. Learning communities share a way of knowing, a set of practices, and shared value of the knowledge that comes from these procedures. These learning communities, with expanded human and technological resources, bring together students, teachers, and community members in directing the course of education in new ways."

Tools like Tapped In, Second Life, Google Groups, and Ning communities such as Classroom 2.0 provide innovative ways to create virtual places for professional development, collegiality, collaboration, and social interaction. But one tool, that may be overlooked to help teachers form learning communities is Moodle

Moodle is most known as an Open Source LMS (Learning Management System) (similar to Blackboard and WebCT). Many schools are using it to either offer online or hybrid courses or as a digital space for a face to face class where students can use Moodle to submit homework, view online resources, or have online conversations with their classmates. Moodle also has modules that allow students to take quizes, surveys, or participate in a classroom wiki.

My belief that the best technology professional development is embedded in the process of participation in authentic meaningful tasks for teachers and not as a separate activity lead me to create an opportunity for teachers to gain skills and confidence using a tool like Moodle by turning it into a technology tool that could be used to help our teachers save time, increase collaboration, and relieve isolation. If you have access to Moodle, try setting up a Moodle "course" in topic mode (instead of the weekly mode) and hiding the modules that say "grade" and "assignment". Give it a cool name that identifies it as a "teachers space" for your school, then:

  1. Add a forum called "Teachers Room" for general dialogue between staff.

  2. Create another forum called Staff Meetings. Post all agendas and minutes as a discussion topic to this Forum and encourage teachers to continue the staff meeting dialogues online.
  3. Add all Staff Meetings, Inservice, Early Releases dates, or other important dates to the "course" calendar.

  4. Add handy staff resources such as PDF copies of parent or staff handbooks and frequently used forms.

  5. Create a quick poll to gather staff input about an important topic in your school.

These 5 simple ways to use Moodle with your staff will provide an authentic opportunity for learning to use a 21st century tool, generate ideas, build confience, and start dialogues that encourage teachers to start using a tool like Moodle to build learning communities with their students.

The fact that Moodle can be set up as an Intranet might make some teachers feel more comfortable participating. If you don't have the school resources to set it up on your school server (did I mention it was free?), there are many resonably priced hosting solutions for Moodle such as that will do all the legwork for you. Teachers can also reserve free Moodle classroom through Global Classroom, which also includes a free skillbuilder course.

Peter Senge was asked (O'Neil, 1995) what he would do, if he were a principal of
a school, to transform the school into a learning organization. Senge
replied that initially he would find the teachers who were interested in doing
things differently, who have 'some real commitment and passion to do it,' and
get them to talking to each other. Pulling a core group together is a strategy
frequently used for mobilizing and moving people in an organization.
~Dr. Shirely M. Hord

One of the biggest obstacles to doing this in schools is the lack of common time. Why not try one of the many technology tools available to start collaborating online about practical issues, then move into the ongoing visioning process of a real learning community.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Big Questions About Web 2.0 in Education

Thursday, September 6th, at the Office 2.0 Conference in San Francisco, there will be a panel discussion on "Classroom 2.0" and the use of Web 2.0 software in education. A wiki with the panel members and more information is here.

As preparation for the panel, an Office 2.0 Conference group in our Classroom 2.0 social network has been formed to allow for the discussion of ten possible panel topics. We will be encouraging the Office 2.0 Conference attendees to join the group and participate in the discussions during and after the conference. We believe that some in the edublogosphere will be interested as well, and hope you will contribute your wisdom! The discussions have been placed in a group in order not to overwhelm the regular Classroom 2.0 dialog.

Here are links to the forum discussions in that group:
1. Is Web 2.0 a good fit for education?
2. Is Web 2.0 significant to future student achievement, workplace skills, information literacy, and digital citizenship?
3. Do we need to start teaching "digital citizenship?"
4. Are the formal structure of education changing because of online learning, and what roles can Web 2.0 software play in those changes?
5. Technology decision-making in schools: The divide between IT and the classroom, and why is it so hard to implement new technologies in education?
6. How much commercialization should be allowed in the classroom and in the school?
7. The conflict between school security issues and the innovative technologies of Web 2.0
8. Publicly shared lives: how transparent should students lives be, and is it appropriate for students to be "clickable?"
9. The training gap: professional development and rapid technological change. How do we train a huge workforce in skills that are just being understood?
10. How important is equitable access to technology, and do the tools of Web 2.0 change that?

(cross-posted from

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Infinite Linking Machine: Post of The Month (August 2007)

I've wanted for some time to introduce a more participatory element into the experience of reading the Infinite Thinking Machine. Any reader can comment on any post, which is fantastic, and we've seen some great discussion on the blog lately. Consider the 18 comments in response to Wes Fryer's recent post for example. In that case, the conversation even extended to other educators' blogs. Vicky Davis, for instance, argued against Wes' call for a moratorium on textbook purchasing. (And you'll find another 11 comments on Vicky's blog.)

However, I'd like to see more reader contributions make it into the actual posts here, too. And as wonderful as the original content created by my fellow ITM bloggers is, it would be great to see this blog linking out to other blogs more often. After all, linking to others' contributions and making connections with others online are both an important part of the blogging process.

With these goals in mind, this post marks the beginning of a new series, The Infinite Linking Machine. Each month I will post a brief topic or question and ask readers to submit relevant links to other blogs in the comments. The following month I'll select one of these to be the Post of The Month. The following guidelines will help you choose a post to submit.

Post Of The Month Guidelines
  1. Leave a comment including the following:
    • The address of another blog post relevant to the month's topic. (Please use the permalink for the particular post you are linking to so that the post is always easily accessible in the future.)
    • A brief annotation of the post so that we know why it is relevant and important.
    • Your name (and webpage) so we can give you credit for your find. :)
  2. Submit links to blog posts that you think make a contribution to the edublogosphere (the world of educational blogs) by offering good advice, resources, or discussion that can benefit a wide variety of teachers around the world. (We're not necessarily looking for tech gurus here.)
  3. Submit links to blog posts that you think make connections between ideas and others' work online.
  4. Avoid posting a link to your own blog and avoid any conflict of interest. (For instance, do not submit posts about products or services in which you have a financial interest.)
  5. Most importantly, submit posts that make us feel good about being educators - even if the posts are dealing with difficult questions or issues. And be sure to have fun with it.
August Link of The Month

By way of example, I'll post a link of the month for August. Obviously this doesn't carry as much weight as a post culled from reader submissions and there were certainly many other amazing posts written in August. However, this is something that caught my eye, especially because I've been doing a lot of work related to Internet Awareness, Ethics, and Safety (which we can consider the topic for August):

Changing my Tune - Internet Safety for Students (Via Multi-faceted Refractions.) This is a great approach to Internet safety for students from Vinnie Vrotny, inspired by Steve Dembo. I love the questions Vinnie asks instead of providing students with a list of things they can't do online. His approach also has the advantage of encouraging rather than squelching discussion.

Topic For September

There are already some fantastic posts out there about the start of the school year. Please submit your favorites over the next couple of weeks. If we've got great response, I'll post a winner in early September and start the next contest right away. Note that every submission will be available in the comments to this post, even if it isn't chosen as the Post of The Month. I can't wait to read what you all submit. :)

I apologize in advance to our colleagues in the Southern hemisphere, who may be in the middle of their school year, and to our colleagues on year round schedules. I hope you'll participate and submit your favorite start of the year posts as well, even if they were written months ago.

Image: Educators making connections at edubloggercon 2007. (By Janice Stearns)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

What's Your Mindset?

View Larger Map

Greetings from near the Mammoth Caves National Park in Kentucky! I'm winding up a much needed vacation with my family, and starting to gear up for the start of school next week. My thoughts are wandering to how I can best serve teachers and students in my new position as Lead Technology Coach at the Center for Urban School Improvement at the University of Chicago.

About this time every year, my alma mater, Beloit College, reminds me that I need to be thinking about students in a more thoughtful way. For the past ten years, the college developed a list of cultural events that possibly shaped the "worldview" of its incoming freshman class. As the list developers Ron Nief and Tom McBride note in their introduction, this is not a list of events that happened the year these kids were born or intended to serve as commentary about the class's pre-collegiate education. It simply is encouragement for Beloit's faculty to think about the perspectives their new students will bring to learning.

As a person interested in educational technology, one item on this year's compilation particularly jumped out at me, "Thanks to MySpace and Facebook, autobiography can happen in real time." I think it's fair to say that there has been a fair amount of skepticism about these social networking sites, and it's interesting how this statement frames their uses. Our kids are writing their own stories and the writing process has been democratized. This is something we cannot ignore.

As this school year begins for me, one of my goals will be to think more about the set of experiences my students are bringing to learning and to consider this information throughout lesson planning and interactions with students and colleagues. The learning process is not only just about objectives, standards, and tests; it's about making learning personal and relevant to our students. So, I hope you will join me in contemplating our mindsets in the K-12 realm. A few questions come to mind: What do you need to know about your students in order to step into their mindsets? How important to the educational process is understanding your students' perspectives ? How do you go about getting to know your students? Post your ideas in the comments section of this post and let's have a conversation!

By the way, you may have noticed my map image in the this post. You can now embed Google Maps into web pages, just like you can with videos from Google Video and You Tube.

Monday, August 13, 2007

A call for a textbook purchasing moratorium

I'm calling for a moratorium on further textbook purchasing in the United States of America for public schools. The purchase of paper-based textbooks, along with the dearth of analog testing materials now flooding most public K-12 schools, represents an enormous WASTE of taxpayer money which should be spent on more relevant and flexible curriculum resources and tools for learners: Namely, wireless, mobile computing devices (laptops) and digital curriculum materials.

According to Wiktionary, the word moratorium (in its second published definition) means:
A suspension of an ongoing activity.

We have been purchasing paper-based textbooks in the United States for well over 100 years, as best I can ascertain. From McGuffy Readers published in the late 1800s to today's colorful textbooks costing (in some cases) as much as $100 each, schools and school administrators have extensive experiences purchasing and managing the use of textbooks in our Schools.

Oklahoma Adventures 4 Aug 07 - 061.jpg

Rather than continue to perpetuate this age-old pattern of purchasing behavior in our schools, it's time to declare a moratorium on textbook purchases.

The day of the paper-based textbook is over. The era of digital curriculum has dawned, and it is fiscally irresponsible for school district leaders to continue to purchase paper-based curriculum materials in light of the digital curriculum resources now available and continuing to become available via electronic means. Digital, web-based curriculum materials are vastly superior to static, analog/paper based curriculum materials for many reasons. Among these are digital curriculum's:
  • potential to be more up to date and current
  • potential to meet varied learning styles and needs (based on preferences, abilities and disabilities)
  • capacity for interactivity, promoting engaged learning
  • potential to support differentiation and self-directed learning
  • capacity to support multiple assessment methods, including ongoing assessment

The future of learning in what we continue to term "Schools" today is 1:1 learning. I am happy to be quoted saying that, you can write down this date.... Come back to me in ten or twenty years and let's compare notes and see what happens/has happened in our "Schools." To maintain the past course of purchasing static, paper-based curriculum materials for students and teachers in our schools is to deny learners the digitally-based learning experiences they need and require for lifelong success in the 21st century information landscape, economy and society.

Why has the OLPC project not seized the imaginations and transformed the budgets of school districts across the United States? I do not have a complete answer, but I strongly suspect a big part of the reason is a LACK of understanding, a LACK of vision, and a LACK of guts on the part of many school leaders to chart an innovative course of educational change for all the students and educational stakeholders in their communities.

Most likely, as a reader of this blog, you were educated like me in the twentieth century. The foundation of the information and knowledge to which we had access in the last century in our schools was the textbook, along with the knowledge and ideas of our teachers. Today in the twenty-first century, digitally empowered learners (not crippled by the digital divide) have amazing access to a world of content which continues to grow by leaps and bounds every day. In addition to ACCESSING that world of content, these digitally empowered learners also have the capacity to CREATE and AUTHOR content as they contribute to the global database of ideas and media.

Please note I am NOT advocating an end to the purchase of tradebooks and other library books. In fact, I endorse the conclusions of Dr. Stephen Krashen in his wonderful book "The Power of Reading: Insights from the Research" -- we need to give students in our schools MORE access to MORE diverse texts, to encourage as much READING as we can. When students are working online, however, they also end up READING and WRITING a great deal more than they tend to do in "traditional school." That is the focus of my dissertation, which I'm hoping to finish this academic year. We DO need robust, wonderful libraries in our communities and in our schools, but we do NOT need to purchase any more textbooks. Instead, we need to provide laptops for all the learners in our schools along with digital curriculum materials they can access at school, from home, or anywhere else they can get online. Free digital curriculum materials are now available which would boggle the mind of anyone living in the 19th or 18th centuries. Those free curriculum sources are not sufficient for learning, however. In my view, there are still valid needs for commercial curriculum tools, but the proliferation of free curriculum materials will continue to challenge commercial providers to further differentiate their "value add" in the marketplace of content and digital assessment tools available online.

One to one learning will not solve all the challenges which face us in education, or which face us more generally in our societies. One to one learning initiatives WILL, however, provide students with the digital learning tools they need to obtain and secure for themselves a relevant education in the twenty-first century. The E-Rate program in the United States has wired 99% of our our schools and libraries, and that is a great step forward. Most of the teachers I work with in Oklahoma schools have a computer on their desk in their classroom. That is a good step forward. But it is not enough.

Education cannot and will not change in the basic, fundamental ways we need and should want it to change in the twenty-first century as long as textbooks, paper, and pencils continue to be the predominant technologies for student expression and individualized access to content. Teachers can write an assignment on a chalkboard, write it on an overhead projector, or flash it up on a sexy electronic whiteboard, but unless EACH LEARNER in each classroom is empowered with their OWN digital device to not only CONSUME but also CREATE and SHARE their ideas with the world over the web, the predominant learning tasks in our classrooms are unlikely to change much.

We need a moratorium on textbook purchasing in this nation, and we need to utilize those funds instead to purchase laptop computers and digital curriculum materials for students and teachers.

We also need to change our bell schedules, stop paying for student seat time, and make some other fundamental changes in our educational system... but for now, I'll just focus on textbook purchases. One thing at a time. If you are in or connected to the textbook publishing industry or the educational testing industry today, it's unlikely your industry has ever had it so good. OF COURSE you want NCLB to be renewed, because reauthorization of that destructive legislation would continue to perpetuate the educational purchasing patterns of the past which continue to enrich your industry while they cripple a generation of students in our public schools.

It's time to stop buying textbooks in our schools, and instead pursue a more informed and fiscally responsible agenda to provide digital curriculum materials and tools for all the learners. When we do that, we'll be empowering a new generation of leaders to invent the future.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The P.E. Geek: Boys, Sports, and ... Wikis?

Kristian Still teaches 16 - 19 year old young men in a sports course at Tauton's College in the UK, which is designed to encourage male learners to go on to higher or extended education. The course uses their interest in sports to help them stay engaged and pursue additional academic achievements.

Kristian uses the tools of Web 2.0 as an essential way to do this. He is the "P.E. Geek"--a fellow who is able to keep his students as interested in being in the classroom as out on the sporting field.

Kristian's work is a fascinating example of harnessing the creative potential of the read/write web to provide an environment of engaged learning. Mainly using the wiki platform as a base, Kristian includes rss feeds, photo and video sharing, online slide presentations, mind-maps, shared spreadsheets, quizzes, games, podcasting, and other Web 2.0 tools to teach respect, attitude, and preparation.

In the audio interview with Kristian that is linked below, he takes us through his websites and shows examples of all of these technologies, and you can actually follow along on the web through the technology of Trailfire. Trailfire lets you build or follow a visible trail of websites and comments. Kristian's "trail," which includes 17 web pages and is marked with comments by him about each "stop," is accessed here: Kristianstill's Web 2.0 experience ( ( You can also download an add-on to Firefox which allows you to easily create "trails" and follow others' trails.)

Kristian's not like any P.E. teacher I ever had. I think you're really going to like getting to know this inspiring educator!

Listen to the the Interview in MP3 format
Listen to the Interview in Vorbis OGG format

Post Script Notes: Since the interview, Wikispaces now allows "automatic merging"--that is, when people try to edit the same page at the same time, Wikispaces merges the changes so that people don't have to worry about overwriting each other's work. And VoiceThread now allows embedding their "voicethreads" into other websites.

Professional Development To Go - A Summer Time Treat

Summertime, and the livin' is easy
Fish are jumpin' and the cotton is high ...Gershwin

For many teachers, summer time is also a time to renew, rejuvenate, and revitalize
But just because technology is on your list of areas where you want to refresh your skills does not mean you have to spend all your time inside on a computer. If you're the type of educator who feels torn between the need to upgrade your technology skills and the need to be enjoy the sunshine, paint the garage, or play in the dirt, then why not take your Professional Development to Go! Grab your IPod or other mp3 player, fill it with podcast that instruct, inform, or inspire you to become a 21st century teacher. (Photo credit)

Here's my recipe for filling your mp3 player with professional development that will have you returning to school invigorated with ideas for using technology to create a true 21st century learning environment in your classroom.

  • Create PLAYLISTS
    Download many different type of podcast and organize them into playlists that will provide variety in your listening experience. I recommend starting with a playlist of 21st century thinkers which include Tom Friedman and Dan Pink, then transitioning over to Wes Fryer's Podcast featuring Kevin Honeycutt, whose humorous style puts Friedman and Pink's big ideas into perspective for a classroom teacher, or Steve Hargadon's interview with Tim O'Reilly on Web 2.0 in Education. Make sure to include a Playlist that features practical, concrete lesson ideas, such as those offered in the SmartBoard Lessons Podcast or the Infinite Thinking Video Podcast. How about a playlist that helps educators (and students) get up-to-speed on the latest content in their field such as Science Friday or National Geographic. Perhaps a playlist of podcasts that feature “tech tools” or pedagogical concepts. Summertime is also a good time to locate good audio materials to use as content with your students such as StoryNory or some good models of student produced content such as the video podcast from students at Mabry Middle School or the Room 208 student produced audio podcast.

  • Add a SMALL notebook to your toolkit
    Tote along a small notebook to jot down a few reminders about which podcast might be worth another listen to. Or perhaps create a 'rating' system for each podcast you listen to based on criteria that are important to you. (i.e. humorous, inspiring, practical classroom ideas, big ideas) Use these ratings to create new playlist. (such as 'Top Ten” podcast for 'literacy strategies”). But DON'T get caught up writing notes. Most podcast have shownotes online which often contain key links, key ideas, and sometimes whole transcripts. Make listening fun. Listen for big ideas and inspiration. Use your notebook sparingly. Enjoy!

  • SHARE your Playlist with colleagues
    If lending out your mp3 player is outside your comfort zone, perhaps your school librarian would consider adding an mp3 player filled playlist created by teachers to their collection of resources. If not, why not burn your playlist on CD to share with a friend. Or better yet, why not contribute your recommendations to a playlist wiki.

  • TALK about it
    How about setting up a face to face dialogue night or an online space for you and your colleagues to discuss the inspiring ideas that came to you during your listening experience. Or perhaps you can recommend future listening. Add to the discussion tab of this playlist wiki or create your own. A more feature-ladened space such as Ning can help you connect with other colleagues using common language created during your individual listening experiences (all while doing what you enjoy the most from your 'summertime' to do list). One teacher shared with me that this made the “refinishing her wood floors” project, so much more enjoyable this summer.

  • Expand your Listening Experience
    Don't limit your listening experience to educational podcasting. There's probably a podcast on every topic imaginable. Whether you're into Comedy Central or National Public Radio, try searching the web directly or the thousands of podcasts available through podcast services such as Itunes for a topic that interest you. A quick survey of the ITM bloggers revealed that TED TALKS was amongst our top pick for favorite podcast series.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Critical Thinking & YouTube? You Bet!

"Critical thinking" has been part of the buzz for decades. Many have attempted to "teach" critical thinking with step-by-step procedures. Others, like myself, have used constructivist activities like WebQuests as both immersion and scaffolding to prompt and guide critical thinking. Most of the research these days recognizes that success in critical thinking is less a process to teach than a disposition to cultivate. A study we're conducting attempts to foster this disposition through a practice called Thinking Routines, developed by the Visible Thinking group at Harvard's Project Zero. The practice uses the power of repeated routines to make wonder, hypothesis and questioning integral to the daily life of the classroom. Examples are:


  1. What do you see?
  2. What do you think about that?
  3. What does it make you wonder?


  1. Make a claim about the topic
  2. Identify support for your claim
  3. Ask a question related to your claim
  1. What’s going on here?
  2. What do you see that makes you say that?
In the past I have referred to these activities as "Learning to Look " or "Looking Tasks." They typically require a computer and data projector so that the looking is a shared experience. What's great is that the Web now abounds in rich multimedia resources that can be used to engage Thinking Routines in ways that couple critical thinking with compelling content. Here four of my favorite examples this week:
Ironically, these days YouTube and other rich sites are commonly blocked in schools, so you may need to download a video yourself at home and bring it in to play offline. In case you aren't aware, there are any number of utilities to help you out. The approach I usually use is as follows:
  1. Find a cool video at YouTube
  2. Copy its Web address, go to YouTube Downloader and paste.
  3. "Save the link as" or "download to disk," taking the opportunity to name the file appropriately and change the file extension to .flv .
  4. Download a free .flv & .swf video player (Mac / PC) or use something like EasyWMV (Mac / PC) to convert the .flv files into mp4s that you can import to a slide presentation or show with video player software that surely comes pre-installed on your computer.
Our current research uses an online personal learning environment called "MyPlace" (MySpace contrast intended ;-) ) to which we regularly feed Thinking Routines related to the social and environmental changes people expect will shape our children's lives. You are all invited to use and share these activities. The latest one is a three minute presentation from the TED conference that raises the question, "Does Globalization have to mean adopting an unhealthy diet?" Take a look and feel free to comment.