Saturday, September 29, 2007

Today's News- We Are Behind

Ok, so I read Doug Johnson's latest blog entry which eloquently sums up our challenge in bringing educators into the fold. He offers simple yet wise guidelines for helping to make change happen in our schools. I agree with the WIFM approach but take it back one step further. I have often suggested that a simple approach to helping teachers understand the power of today's technology lies in finding their passion, whether it be scrapbooking, football, or popular culture and introducing them to blogs and wikis that will feed their passion. Being engaged personally is a first step to guiding them to consider its implications for the students in their class- WIFS- what's in for students.

YES, all of us need to feel empowered, to know that our voice is heard. To realize that our ideas are valued. The more we find ways to bring the many stakeholders into the conversation, the better chance we will have to accomplish the awesome task in front of us.

If I hear one complaint more often than another it would be the expectation that teachers are expected to differentiate instruction for all of the students in their classroom, yet in-service programs typically do not take into account that teachers have differing levels of expertise, learning styles, and needs just as their students do. Offering a range of training options is what they want.

But, it was the comment from Malcolm Lambe that drove the point home that we had better get serious about "raising the bar" for change in schools. He points us to a post about 2D Barcodes. The barcodes that appear on all of our grocery store products and are scanned for the purchase price and much more including inventory and personal preferences are 1D barcodes. Well, it seems according to this post that the United States is rather FAR BEHIND is our use of now 2D barcodes, which when scanned hyperlink to internet sites.

According to David Harper these bar codes are being used extensively in Japan and have become part of their everyday life. They can be found just about anywhere- in magazines, outside of restaurants, on coffee cups, on advertisements, food, you name it. Using a phonecam, a picture is taken of the code and then programing within the phone connects you to a web page giving you access to information about the product or service in an instant.

While for many schools, the use of phones in United States schools is a controversial topic and simply often forbidden, other major parts of the world have moved passed the issue and have embraced the questions of how they can be used to improve information retrieval, connections, and communication. It is not a matter of whether we should, it is HOW.

We have the ability to access information at a click through a mobile device, but it has become routine in Japan with 90% of people accessing the web this way according to Scanbuy a New York based maker of 2D barcode software. And Japan is not alone in the use of mobile devices to access the web. But it is not so, here in the United States. Why not? Well, one reason, according to Malcolm Lambe is the fact that 70% of phones with cameras in the US do not even have the software necessary to interpret a 2D bar while 65% of the phones in Japan do. McDonald's will be testing the use of 2D barcode technology in Portugal and Germany. What about the US? What are we waiting for?

For educators, 2D Barcodes aside, it is the explosion of ready access to information at a click from a handheld mobile device that is significant. The teacher's job of passing on information is extinct.
We've been replaced.

Every lesson we teach should be more than the facts. We don't need students who can memorize information. We need critical thinkers, who can analyze and evaluate the flood of information at their fingertips.

So back to professional development. We base our choices on what we are knowledgeable about. If we don't know other possibilities, we will never ask for them. We need to immerse our educators in this type of technology which others across the world are using daily. We need to show them the power it has to transform their daily lives. And we need to engage them in the dialogue of how it might also transform their instruction. And we need to do it NOW because the world has shifted, even if they don't know it.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Future Shock? Daily Shock!

So, how do you keep up with the constantly, relentless onslaught of new ideas, new tools, and morphing information? I am, on a daily basis, reminded of the very real fact that I am a digital immigrant whose ability to multitask is somewhat high, but not at the level to absorb the barrage of information which appears through my email, RSS feeds, twitter, and numerous learning communities to which I belong. I, admittedly, am not a young 'un, which may be at the root of the problem. But, at the same time, the pure thrill of connecting and learning invigorates me and pushes me to continue on my adventure. What I struggle with is the cacophony of ideas which seem disparate yet I know are related, if only I had the time to make sense of them. What I sense is my need for more time than others within my edublogger world to absorb and synthesize the continuous flow of information.

I thrive on new ideas, new adventures, new possibilities, new ways of thinking. Yet, without sufficient time to digest and synthesize ideas, I resort to saving, tagging, and storing all of which, if I acted upon them hold the potential to change my perspective. What I also suspect is are several factors at work. When my bloglines rss feeder is exploding at the seems,I approach the new posts with a singular sense of purpose. I tend to approach new blog posts from a narrow
perspective, in a perhaps misguided attempt to keep up. Another factor is my own personal barrier between my personal and public comment. The differing expectations and criteria I place upon my verbal and written commentary are a factor in my reluctance to recording my thoughts for others to read and critique. When I carry on a discussion with others, I can find it easy to chat, respond to others, and to ask questions. I expect that others will also readily join in that conversation. Certainly, there are times when studied and researched thought is important and a significant addition to a public discussion. But, equally important, is the potential for my own growth from sharing with others.

So, perhaps a new strategy is necessary. It is not about keeping up. It is really about learning. Less is more. By reading and connecting deeply to fewer ideas I can make more sense of this rapidly expanding world. The fact that I missed it last week or last month should not be a problem. When I do need to learn something, I can always turn to my network to discover the answer. They are my buffer and support in making sense of the this technologically exploding world.

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

First Day Hopes and Promises

DAY 1...
Scanning the sea of freshly trimmed hair, new sneakers, and backbacks nestled on small shoulders, a feeling of anticipation, of new beginnings and fresh possibilities enveloped the room.
There was a palpable sensation that this September would be different. That nothing that had happened before would matter. Today was a fresh start. With forward looking eyes, students gathered with their classmates to join their new teacher and headed down the hallway to begin the year's adventure.

Those first few moments of nervousness, of anticipation hold such hope. How I wish that we could capture and bottle that energy. How I wish that nothing would infect and diminish the hope of the first day of school. For we all arrive the first day feeling it - students, teachers, administrators. Its ability to empower us into positive action is undeniable.

Let us resolve that we will capture the first day snapshot in our minds and also our spirit. That as the inevitable downtrodden days arrive when we are tired and short on passion, with too much to do, we will relive the first day moment and be recharged with the hopes and power of a new day.
  • Let us resolve to start each day as if it were the first day.
  • To leave the troubles of a day behind us.
  • To greet each child and colleague each day with a fresh view.
  • To find new possibilities in every day.
  • To dream of what is possible, not impossible.
  • To look forward and find the way to make a difference.
Photo from cmiked's photos on Flickr.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Planning for the Next 180

My spirit lifts its wings to catch the gentle breeze as the last day of summer's freedom come to an end.

September...A new beginning.
Fresh with energy and hope.

What new adventures lie ahead?
Who will we meet?
What will we discover about others...about ourselves?

Each year is so unique. Whatever this year holds for it, it most definitely will not be the same as last year. I have the luxury of continuing with students from year to year, sometimes for as long as their elementary career. This enables me to build upon their previous years' experiences. In addition, it offers me the challenge (which I love) of continually having to develop new questions and to find new avenues for them to explore.

So what are the possibilities?

Perhaps remembering where we have been and what we experienced last year is a good starting point.

I definitely want to have my students engage in a collaborative project with other classrooms again this year. Last year, we jumped in with both feet, finding collaborative projects to join across a range of topics and curricular areas. They were involved in several projects including:

Megaconference Jr. - an amazing twelve-hour worldwide videoconferencing event
The Global Warming Student Speak Out - a collaborative problem solving project giving students an opportunity to collectively brainstorm strategies to fight global warming using Google Docs & Spreadsheets
Global Warming - Race for the Tipping Point - a Magpi sponsored project about Global Warming
Read Around the Planet - a pairing of classrooms to celebrate "NEA's Read Across America"
Holiday Card Exchange - One of several collaborative projects developed by Jennifer Wagner as part of her TechnospudProjects.
Global Sun Temperature Project -a scientific exploration of how geographic location affects the average daily temperature and hours of sunlight.

i also want to continue to reach beyond our classroom wall through the use of videoconferencing and virtual field trips. Last year we participated in Operation Montserrat- an eMission simulation from the Challenger Learning Center. We also participated in several Ball State eField Trips including a visit to Hawaii for the Eruption trip, a visit to Philadelphia to explore Freedom in America, and a trip to the Indianapolis Speedway to study the Science of Speed. We followed the migration of shore birds through Migration Science and Mystery and joined another class posted through CILC for a literature discussion of the book Bridge to Teribithia.

Wow! Seeing everything we did listed all at once is powerful.

The possibilities for this year...are limitless. I had better get cracking on this year's list.

Any suggestions?

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