Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Open Minds Momentum

Has Open Source in Education reached a Tipping Point-- “the levels at which the momentum for change becomes unstoppable?” Anyone attending the K12 Open Minds Conference would be hard pressed to argue otherwise. “Let’s Declare Victory!” and move on to the next steps was certainly the tone starting with the PreConference Summit (lead by Bryant Patten and Donna Benjamin) and Large Scale Deployment (lead by Steve Hargadon) in Indianapolis, Indiana.

In his book, “The Tipping Point”, Malcom Gladwell, outlines what it takes for an idea, movement, or product to achieve a moment of critical mass: The salesman; The maven; The connector. The K12 Open Minds Conference was an opportunity to witness the incredible energy and synergy when those 3 forces come together in one place. Having students, teachers, tech directors, school leaders, who use open source software for teaching and learning converse and collaborate with the developers of those tools truly created an Open Minds energy throughout the conference. If you missed it, perhaps you can still pick up a few tips, tools, or resources with my takeaways from this conference.

  • I got a chance to meet teachers like Michelle Librach who lead sessions like Audacious Audacity targeted at teachers. While fellow teachers walked away with practical tips on how to use open source in their classrooms, open source developers got a chance to witness first hand the fruits of their labor.
  • I overheard NCOSE award winner, Eric Harrison, humbly admit that he sometimes thinks it's surreal that hundreds of classrooms are benefiting from increased access to computers using K12LTSP -- a project he helped develop.
  • I listened to open conversations about open standards between Walter Bender, developer of open source software, Sugar, and students from Illinois Math and Science Academy who started the first high school chapter for OLPC.
  • I got a sneak preview of the G-Phone which reminded me of of the authentic opportunity that projects like Google’s Summer of Code provide students to contribute to an open community as they develop authentic 21st century skills. “Let’s not stop with getting kids to work WITH open source… let’s get them to work ON open source development.” advocated Bryant Patten’s (director of National Center for Open Source in Education). “Can you think of any better assessment of the new ISTE NETS for Students than having a student contribute to an Open Source Project? “
  • [Photo credit: ISTE NETS for Students]

  • I applauded when keynote speakers reminded us of the the fact that we need to develop the spirit in inquiry in today's students.

    - Alex Inman, advised teachers to “Be quiet. Stop talking and give your students the opportunity to to experience the power of inquiry. Let them DO something. Let them create”.

    - Chris Lehman, also stressed the importance of inquiry at his school, The Science Leadership Academy – “a project-based environment where the core values of inquiry, research, collaboration, presentation and reflection are emphasized in all classes”.
  • - Dr. David Thornburg, encouraged the use of Open Source (and Duct Tape) to promote creativity in K12 schools and challenged us to prepare the type of student who could repair a moon buggy with duct tape while wearing oven mitts.

  • I was inspired by those in the trenches like Randy Orwin (band teacher turned network administrator) who’s passion for student learning drives every decision he makes, whether it be “hardware purchases, open source adoption, or filtering”. While some open source evangelists get bogged down trying to decide whether to spend their energy on convincing commercial product developers (like Inspiration) to release a Linux version of their product or convincing educators to adopt a “pure” open source alternative like Free Mind, Randy asks “what’s the best decision I can make for 5th graders right now.” This approach gives Randy more time to develop truly pragmatic educational implementation of the open source products he believes are truly best for student learning. I can’t wait to try the “Nanogong” module that adds audio accessibility to Moodle or the other tips Randy shared such as how to turn a Moodle branded page into a bright, exciting, colorful, entry point for first and second grade students.
  • I learned a myriad of tips and tricks for supporting Open Office and other Open Source tools in real classrooms.

    Thank you , Randy, for the Open Office tip about adding clipart libraries such as (WP Clipart) and (Open Clip Art) to Galleries by categories instead of using the Insert Picture method. The ability to see clipart thumbnails and drag them into Open Office documents will remove one of my biggest barrier to Open Office adoption by teachers! And a big thanks for sharing Solveig Haugland's open office blog -- what a teacher friendly resource for anyone using Open Office.

    Also, thank you to Andy Mann and Laura Taylor for being willing to expand your session to include both free and open source software, but to also include lots of invaluable experience about which tools make the most difference in Real Classrooms with ReaL teachers. The enthusiasm and experience you shared from Indiana's InAccess is invaluable to us.
I think the diversity of the audience was one of the strengths of this conference. Yes, it offered plenty of ‘genuine geek time for those genius brains” to network and collaborate. I can’t wait to see what emerges from conversations between folks like those between Robert Arkiletian (developer of a K12LTSP app called FL-Teacher Tool) and Benoit St. Andres (from Revolution Linux). Watching developers collaborate to improve the tools we're excited to use in education has me looking forward to new products and updates.

But mostly this conference brought students, teachers, school leaders, network admins, and developers together to promote open resources, technology and teaching practices in education. And when visionaries like Australia's Donna Benjamin bring the spirit of The Cape Town Open Education Declaration and her incredible facilitation skills to such a group, then the mavens, connectors, and salesmen of Open Source in Education are tipping the scales. And perhaps the next step in this collaboration efforts the TRUST as described by our last keynote speaker, Dr. Brad Wheeler, "build the trust to get the leverage we need to enable greater things to happen on the edge." I am leaving this conference revitalized and hopeful that that our school and industry leaders and network administrators will continue to build the infrastructure and systems we need to leverage the great things that open source developers and teachers are making happen to continue the Open Minds Momentum.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Google Teacher Academy: NYC

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 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 two events, 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 - NYC
New York, New York
November 18, 2008
Applications Due: October 10, 2008

We are pleased to announce that another round of Google's FREE training program for K-12 educators is coming to The Big Apple! Outstanding educators from around the world are encouraged to apply for the Google Teacher Academy taking place on Tuesday November 18, 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 New York City are due on October 10, 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 - NYC
New York, New York

November 18, 2008
Applications Due: October 10, 2008

I hope to see some of you in New York! Also, we hope to be announcing additional events and additional locations in 2009, so stay tuned.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Social Digital Tools with an Election Theme

Although your students may be too young to vote, they are never too young to become engaged in local, regional, and national politics. Whatever your content area or grade level, adding an election theme to your lessons is an ideal way to create high interest, add fresh content, and increase the level of critical thinking skills in your classroom.

A great place to start exploring the possibilities of using social digital tools with an election theme is by exploring Googlitics (a site filled with links and lessons to help students participate and learn about American politics with online tools from Google for Educators). Not only have Cheryl Davis and Kathlen Ferenz compiled a wealth of resources that will help educators infuse 21st Century tools in their classroom, they've also modeled a real 21st century approach to organize these resources - sharing these resources via an I-Google Tabs.

If you don't already have an I-Google account - this would be a great oppotunity to experiment with the power this tool has for sharing resources amongst educators. Create and I-Google Account and log in. Then

This will automatically add two new tabs in your IGoogle page that Cheryl and Kathy have created and shared with you using I-Google's ability to share Tabs with others. You and your students are now equipped with a compilation of election data for some higher order thinking (such as a gadget from the interactive website from 270toWin which provides the history of the electoral vote of your state from 1782 - 2008 and much more).

Check out Googlitics Lesson ideas for instruction on how to add your own gadgets, or other check out Googles Election Tools for Your Classroom for more tools and ideas that will engage your students in exploring the candidates and issues.

Google's Elections '08 Map Gallery and Google's Elections 2008 Gadget can keep you up-to-date on the 2008 election. These maps and gadgets can even be embedded in your own wiki, blog, or school web page.

Chris Pirillo provides a great tutorial (both print and video) on how to use Google Doc's new Form Feature to create your own polls or mock election.

Perhaps this would be an ideal opportunity to experiment with cellphones in your classroom by using Poll Everywhere Voting and Polling Website. You can set up polls and allows students to use either texting on their cellphones or any Internet enabled computer to vote. The results can be displayed on a Website or using Powerpoint.

How about getting your students involved in Letters to the Next President -- a writing and publishing opportunity co-sponsored by Google and the National Writing Project? Perhaps you can help your students experience the process and power of the voting process by getting involved in the National Parent/Student Mock Election Project.

Check out the wealth of Interactive Games, Gadgets, and Tools at PBS Vote 2008 or use the full multmedia curriculum Election 2008: ACCESS, ANALYZE, ACT: A Blueprint for 21st Century Civic Engagement, developed in partnership with PBS Teachers and Temple University’s Media Education Lab to help educators develop middle school and high school students' understanding of the Presidential campaign process by harnessing the power of Web 2.0 for teaching media and information literacy, critical thinking, communication, collaboration and technology skills.

And there has never been such an abundance of primary source videos from the campagin trail on video sharing sites like You Tube and Google Videos. Adding Google's speech recognition technology makes for a powerful tool in differentiating instruction.

Even the well-respected Common Craft video series added its Simple and Plain English Style to help us understand the Election with this 3 minute video (Electing a US President in Plain English). You can even encourage your students to create similar videos on a wide variety of topics with these 'behind the scenes" instructions. And news programs like NBC have made their videos available with accompanying education materials through sites like Hot Chalk.

Whatever your content areas or grade level, the resources are as plentiful as the lesson ideas which you can find at sites like:

Or for a real global perspectives lesson, check out the You Tube tutorial on using The US Election 2008 Web Monitor which provides weekly snapshots of global Web coverage with results that reflect attention and sentiment towards the US presidential candidates from several different countries.

But don't limit your use of digital social tools to helping your students understand the U.S. Election, continue to use these tools to help students gain an increased global awareness by following similar elections and political events from around the world.

And please, please, please share your favorite tools and ideas on how to use these tools with other readers by adding them in the comments section. I can't wait to read them.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Call for Presentations on Open Source at CUE and NECC

Two educational technology conferences that have been SUPER supportive of Open Source Software and Open Technologies are CUE and NECC.  Both sponsor "Open Source Pavilions" with Linux labs, and both have speaker tracks on Open Source. 

If you are interested in speaking at either the CUE or NECC 2009 conferences on Open Source Software, Open Content, or Open Technologies, I'd like to encourage you to submit speaking proposals.  

CUE:  Due this Friday, September 12th!

NECC:  Due Wednesday, October 8th.

I hope you will consider participating!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Wikis in Education Celebration September 11th, 2008

(Cross-posted from

Wikispaces has given away 100,000 ad-free educational wikis, and has just announced they are going to give away 250,000 more. We're going to celebrate the general use of wikis in education and Wikispace's amazing milestone by having founder Adam Frey and the Wikispaces team join us Thursday evening, September 11, 2008, for an open Classroom 2.0 discussion of the use of wikis in education.

If you are using wikis in education, or if you want to learn why you might consider doing so, please join us at 5pm Pacific / 8pm Eastern / Midnight GMT in our Elluminate room. We'll have lots of time for Q&A, which you are welcome to start beforehand in the forum discussion on Classroom 2.0.

If you haven't used Elluminate before,.you can use the following link to verify your system compatibility with their online meeting tool: If you are not in the US, here's a time-clock link.

Kudos to Wikispaces, and to all educators who are exploring the use of Web 2.0 in education!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Live Web Meeting and Q&A with Creators of PBS Election Education Resources

On Wednesday, September 10th, at 6pm Pacific / 9pm Eastern, the creators of the PBS multi-media AND social-media "Vote 2008" curriculum will take part in a Classroom 2.0 Live Conversation. You are invited to participate in this (free) Web event.

We'll first be given a personal tour of "Election 2008: ACCESS, ANALYZE, ACT: A Blueprint for 21st Century Civic Engagement", the latest multimedia curriculum, which was developed in partnership with PBS Teachers and Temple University’s Media Education Lab. The project is aimed at encouraging teachers to experiment with social media/Web 2.0 tools in the classroom in order to promote both civic engagement and critical 21st century skills. Educators will be able to help develop students' understanding of the Presidential campaign process by harnessing the power of Web 2.0 for teaching media and information literacy, critical thinking, communication, collaboration and technology skills. There are more than a dozen social media tools showcased in this curriculum to engage middle-school and high school learners in the political campaign process.

Following the overview of the resources available, there will be a question and answer session. You may want to preview the "Vote 2008" election resources at PBS by going to You might consider taking the quick political quiz yourself (see below)! A wiki for the project is located at

To join the event on September 10th, check the instructions on the Classroom 2.0 Live Conversations page at This event will also be recorded and a link to the recording will be posted soon after.