Thursday, August 21, 2008

Hopes and Dreams

It’s almost that time of year again for many teachers – the time when eager little smiles will walk into your classroom outfitted with clothes and supplies from their back to school shopping trip. For some teachers with a different school year than mine, your back to school experience might not be this month, but hopefully it is filled with the same feeling of rejuvenated hopes and dreams. Many teachers I know actually build in a Hopes and Dreams student activity as part of their beginning of the year routines. I hope you do! Perhaps this student's hopes for her new classroom can inspire you to integrate some 21st century tools in your classroom.

Perhaps you can learn a new tool to help your student express their hopes and dreams. Perhaps you can help them expand the scope to more global hopes and dreams. Perhaps you can provide the next stepping stone to dream that will only be realized long after they leave your classroom.

Recently, I overheard a teacher tell a colleague “This year, I’m going to make sure that the kids write hopes and dreams that we can actually accomplish in our classroom”. I wanted to say “Oh, please don’t!”. Today’s technology puts tools in your student’s hands that will allow them to express their dreams in ways that were not possible only a few years ago. What about using Animoto or Voicethread to create a classroom hopes and dreams project? Perhaps start a list on a project like 43 things.

Today’s technology can knock down the walls and open the possibilities for you to reach far across the globe. How about using Google Maps, Google Earth or Google Sky to take a field trip that your students’ could only dream of not so long ago. Video’s available through You Tube, Google Video, or other video-sharing websites, along with other video services such as Discovery Education Streaming, Annenberg Media, or National Geographic Video can also help your students’ dreams reach far beyond their classroom.

Today’s technology makes it possible for you to connect with someone who can help your students achieve one of their hopes and dreams. Astronauts, authors, video game producers, Olympic athletes, visiting your classroom are more possible than they ever were through tools like email or video chat. Consider having your students use a service like Skype or GabCast to turn a phone call interview into a podcast of someone who has achieved one of their hopes and dreams.

Today’s technology allow you to collaborate with others who have similar hopes and dreams. Consider joining one of the many collaborative projects made possible by collaborative tools such as those featured at Global School House’s Project Registry, Taking IT Global, or Epals. If you’ve never experienced the power of global collaborative projects in your classroom, check out Jim and Mali's Keynote Address from NECC 2008 (two outstanding teachers whose practice was transformed through their participation in global collaborative projects)

But most importantly, today’s technology is available to you as teachers to be a tool that helps your students reach their hopes and dreams.

As teachers, we are in the fortunate position to help our students get one step closer to realizing their hopes and dreams. If for any reason, you need a little convincing of this, I strongly suggest you put aside an hour to watch “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch. Randy, whose legacy includes ALICE, a program that helps kids learn the concepts of programming through storytelling and animation. In this inspirational video, Randy shares his childhood dreams with his audience during some of the last months of his fight with cancer. His lecture is filled with inspirational messages to today’s teachers, parents, mentors, and children about the people and events that helped him realize his childhood dreams.

May you be one of the forces in your students’ life that takes them one step closer to realizing their hopes and dreams. And please, please, share your Hopes and Dreams activities with other readers or simply add to the this Hopes and Dreams VoiceThread.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Google Teacher Academy: Chicago

The next Google Teacher Academy (GTA) has been announced. I've said this before, but I’m thrilled to be involved with this project - and to share it with you here on the this blog. As with all previous GTA events, tech savvy educators and professional developers in the local area can apply to participate in the special full-day workshop. And as with the last GTA, the application process is also open to anyone, including educators out of the area, out of the state, or even out of the country (with the understanding that Google doesn’t cover travel or lodging). In other words, any of you who feel you meet the criteria for application are invited to apply!

Below is the official announcement and invitation to apply:
Google Teacher Academy - Chicago
Chicago, IL
September 24, 2008
Applications Due: August 24, 2008

We are pleased to announce that another round of Google's FREE training program for K-12 educators is coming to the windy city! Outstanding educators from around the world are encouraged to apply for the Google Teacher Academy taking place on Wednesday, September 24, 2008.

The GTA is an intensive, one-day event (8:30am-7:30pm) where participants get hands-on experience with Google's free products and other technologies, learn about innovative instructional strategies, collaborate with exceptional educators, and immerse themselves in an innovative corporate environment. Upon completion, GTA participants become Google Certified Teachers who share what they learn with other K-12 educators in their local region.

50 outstanding educators from around the world will be selected to attend the GTA based on their passion for teaching, their experience as leaders, and their use of technology in K-12 settings. Each applicant is REQUIRED to produce and submit an original one-minute video on either of the following topics: "Motivation and Learning" or "Classroom Innovation." Applications for the event in Chicago are due on August 24, 2008. If possible, please use Google Video or YouTube to post these original videos. Participants must provide their own travel, and if necessary, their own lodging. Though we will give preference to K-12 educators within a 90-minute local commute of an Academy event, anyone may apply.

Learn more about the program and the application at

The GTAs have been a wonderful experience for everyone involved, with 97% of all attendees rating the GTA as "outstanding."

Here are a few quotes from GTA participants:
"The academy was everything I hoped for and more! I can't wait to plan out ways to use the tools we learned about, to share my experiences with my colleagues and to re-connect with the other academy participants!"
"The focus on innovation in education, and not just about the tools, was right on target."
"I appreciate the opportunity to be connected to a group of educators that are passionate about preparing students for the 21st century. I feel inspired and able to meet the challenges that lie ahead!"
"Until now, I had never attended a conference where I was so engaged and loving every minute of it."
"This was easily the most important professional development experience I have ever had as an educator. World-class tools demonstrated by world-class people at a world-class facility. THANK YOU!"
"I love [the Google Certified Teacher community] for the ideas and inspiration that comes flowing to and from it...folks share professional development strategies (technology or otherwise) that have worked. It's nice to have a variety of ways to assist others and having that variety also provides spice for those of us responsible for doing the providing."

Feel free to send any questions to "", and please spread the word to anyone who may be interested in joining us.

We're looking forward to another great event!

- The GTA Team

Google Teacher Academy
September 24, 2008
Chicago, IL

Applications Due: August 24, 2008

Note: Another GTA is currently being planned for New York City in November 2008. Sign up for the Google Teacher Newsletter on the front page of Google for Educators site to receive more detailed information soon.

I'm excited that Google has continued it's support for this program and that we've been able to announce another GTA so soon after the last one. (And, as you may have noted, there's one more coming before the end of the year!) Thanks goes to Cristin Frodella for making this happen at Google, and to the folks at CUE (particularly Mike Lawrence) and at WestEd (particularly Allison Merrick) for making this a reality. Thanks also go to fellow ITM blogger Lucy Gray for her role in planning the Chicago event.

See you in Chicago! ;)

UPDATE: By the way, Google for Educators announced two other cool projects today, Letters to The Next President and Google Elections Video Search.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Shining Eyes of Passion

School’s out for summer - yet for many --more learning is happening in shorter periods of time than happened during the 180 day school year. Having just spent a week with 22 girls during TechSavvy Girls summer camp and another week with 32 middle school kids during TechSavvy Kids summer camp, I started to think about what makes summer camp so much more engaging than school. Surely it takes more than replacing the word “school” with the word “camp”… to transforms the experience. Why is it that we would rather spend time at “summer camp” than “summer school”.

  • Is it because there are no bells that tell us it’s time to move to the next station and we have larger blocks of time to immerse ourselves into our learning?
  • Is it because there are no mandates that create solid boundaries about what will and will not be learned and how we should learn it?
  • Is it because there are no test and quizzes that try to quantify how much we remembered about what we learned?

No… I don’t think it’s the absence of something; but rather the ‘presence’ of an important element – PASSION!

A week long experience where talented passionate instructors focused on creating fun filled experiences that pass on that passion to others --– whether it be humanities camp, chess camp, outdoor camp—will yield lots of learning, lots of eager smiles, and lots of shining eyes.

And for those of you who think that this formula only works when learners themselves are passionate about the subject – think again as you watch the masterful Benjamin Zander create an understanding and appreciation for classical music amongst the unsuspecting audience of the T.E.D. 2008 conference.

Consider your role as a teacher as you listen to Zander describe his role as a conductor.

“The conductor of an orchestra doesn’t make a sound..
He depends for his power on his ability to make other people powerful.

My job was to awaken possibilities in other people..
How do you know if you are doing it
Look at their eyes.. if their eyes are shiny you know you're doing it

If not.. you should ask..
Who am I being that my players eyes are not shiny?”
What do you need to do this summer to come back to school in September ready to bring out the shine in your student's eyes?

Do you need to immerse yourself into a new experience that lights your fire? Do you need to do something new you’ve always wanted to try – and reflect on the parts of it that make your eyes smile as you do it ?

Do you need to immerse yourself into the powerful words of writer who allows you to escape into the passions of their experience? Perhaps escape to Italy, India, and Indonesia with Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray Love or to a village in Afghanistan’s with Greg Mortenson in Three Cups of Tea.

Do you need to immerse yourself into an experience that takes you out of your comfort zone? Every couple of years I try to learn something that I’m not naturally good at or perhaps even fear. In the past few years I’ve tried tennis lessons, swing dance lessons, and motorcycle riders classes. Each of these has helped make me a better teacher by helping me tune in on what it takes to bring a reluctant learner’s fear of failure to a state of confidence and success. Success doesn’t mean I’ll ever play in a tennis tournament, participate in a dance competition or drive a motorcycle in real traffic, but it means I gained an appreciation for those who have passion for each of these activities in real life.

Do you need to immerse yourself into a self study of some new technique or tool that might engage your students when they return to your classroom this Fall? Pay attention to the young people around you this summer and notice what they are passionate about.