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 (http://trailfire.com/Kristianstill/trailview/38344). ( 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.

Friday, July 13, 2007

iGoogle is Must Have for Kids

We are pleased to have a new correspondent join the ITM - 9 year-old Adora Svitak. Adora is a published author who's written hundreds of short stories, maintains her own blog, and has been featured on CNN and Good Morning America. Most importantly, she's an avid tech user who types at amazing speeds. We're excited to have Adora provide us with her thoughts on technology and learning from the perspective of a "Digital Native." Be sure to welcome Adora to the ITM community in the comments below her post! - Chris Walsh

Although I consider myself fairly well-versed in technology, discovering iGoogle made me ecstatic. It's an absolute must-have if you want to keep floating on the all too murky surface of tech popularity. An iGoogle a ccount is necessary to put yourself forward as a professional tech savvy. iGoogle is a recently introduced branch of Google, stemming from its customized version. Viewers are able to choose from a palette of themes including "City Bus Stop" and "Sweet Dreams", all of which adjust to your local weather. Before you decide this is a "frivolous" product, consider the quick access to Wikipedia, Word of the Day, Brainteasers, Time and Date, To-Do, and Type Type Revolution gadgets. Google News, BBC, Scientific American, and the Discovery Channel all provide current events and educational news feeds. Kids have potential to succeed without sacrificing their "fun" -- iGoogle gives great educational links plus tools like calculators. Ye rowdy children, gather 'round the computer-place--warm your hands at the computer, and get ready to have some serious fun with serious learning.

As a writer, one of my favorite features is the Literary Quote of the Day. Including a wide range of authors, the Literary Quote of the Day is a whimsical gadget. While it's not particularly useful in everyday life (except maybe to retort to the coworker who claims you're vulgar and badly educated), the Literary Quote is interesting to look at. It's also small so it conserves space in your iGoogle page, unlike many larger gadgets. As a kid, I love Type Type Revolution, a fast-powered game featuring terrific typing. Creating your own iGoogle page is like creating your own world. I was extremely excited when I first discovered this. I began getting iGoogle gadgets in a frenzied race, as if a Cyclops would appear out of nowhere momentarily and smash my computer to smithereens.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Marc Andreessen: From Web Browser to Social Networking

It's hard for me to imagine someone more interesting to interview than Marc Andreessen. Marc was one of the co-authors of the original web browser, has a history in the Free and Open Source Software movement, and now is one of the founders of the "build-your-own" social networking site Ning. The Classroom 2.0 social network I set up on Ning has really helped to galvanize my thoughts on the substantial contributions that I think social networking will have in education, both for student use and for teacher professional development.

Marc is not only fascinating to listen to, he's also a true gentleman--you may notice a skip in the recording, which is where my recording software failed in our original interview. Marc was kind enough to re-record the second half of our discussion some days later. His comments on the future of blogs and social networks toward the end are challenging and insightful, and his descriptions of the qualities he looks for in employees could provide a great platform for discussion on the skills we teach in schools (see also his blog post on this).

I also owe to Marc my first experience editing Wikipedia. I've been a huge wiki user and lover for quite a while, but I'd never actually played in the "big leagues" by editing Wikipedia. When I was researching Marc for the interview, I noticed that a couple of the links on his Wikipedia were broken, so I fixed them. I have to admit to feeling a little thrill editing Wikipedia...

For a related interview, Marc's business partner at Ning is Gina Bianchini, and you can find my recent interview with her here.

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

(Cross-posted from www.SteveHargadon.com)