Friday, August 22, 2008

Links for the Week of 8/17/08

This week read about living and learning in the 21st century. Think how you will capitalize on the information and energy of the 2008 presidential election and find some fun Web2.0 Tools.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Translate and Calculate

One of the most challenging aspects of this trip has been my need to adapt to the use of the Metric system of measurement instead of the English system.

What will the weather be today?
21 degree Celcius…
What does that mean?

Gasoline- $1.45 a liter
Is that cheap, expensive?

The speed limit maximum is 80 kilometers per hour.
So how fast is that?

It is 45 kilometers to Jasper.
So how far is that?

I understand the Metric system, have taught my students about the metric system, yet I am struggling to be able to use it effectively and efficiently within my daily life experiences while I am here in Canada.

I find that I am at a loss to identify any benchmark experience that I can use as my guide. It is my need to translate between the two systems that has me in a quandary. All of my teaching and learning has not been enough to help me use the metric system. I have not had enough experiences to solidify my understanding of what 21 degrees Celcius means in terms of helping to guide me in deciding what I should wear for the day’s weather.

How long will it take us to get to Jasper, if it is 45 kilometers away? My understanding of how long it will take to arrive at a destination is extricably linked to my lifetime experiences of how long it takes to travel somewhere whether I am traveling 60 miles an hour or 35mph.
These experiences drive home the problem with mathematics instruction. Math textbooks introduce a new concept every two pages. How can a student possibly understand the concept if they practice it only briefly? How can we help students develop a deeper understanding of the concepts?

What would it take for me to develop the same working conceptual knowledge of the Metric system as I have of the English system of measurement? How could we build these experiences into our students’ lives? Could we report the weather each day in both Fahrenheit and Celcius? Could we post distances on signs in both miles and kilometers?

But, the question also begs to be asked- should we?

The United States is bound to the English system of measurement, while most other countries uses the Metric system.

Do our students need to have more than the knowledge that there are two different systems of measurement?
To be able to navigate the world as global citizens, I say Yes!
We must help our students develop deeper understandings.
To continue to live in an UScentric mindset will not benefit them.

But, isn’t this also a similar problem with learning other languages?

Continuing On...

The trip continues…
We leave Lake Louise and head north.
The first stop is Peyto Lake, another turquoise blue glacier fed lake. The walk to see it is a short, but steep hike, which provides ample opportunities to admire the beautiful wildflowers growing along the trail. At the top, you are rewarded with a breathtaking view of the lake.

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Then onto the Athabasca Glacier, which is part of the Columbia Ice Field in Jasper National Park…
The Athabasca Glacier flowing downhill from the Columbia Ice Field is moving so slowly that you cannot see it move. Your eye does not perceive its massive size until you are on it.
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The water we are drinking which has melted from snow that fell 150 years ago. It is the purest water you can drink. But how long will we continue to have these sources of water? How long will it be before the glaciers are completely gone? The Park Service talks about the natural cycle of growth and receding of glaciers. But, that is relative to thousands of billions of years- not our lifetime. In exploring the beauty and majesty of these natural scenes, I can’t help but consider what impact humans have had in changing the landscape and whether there is any change of reversing the damage we have done.

But, there is no cell phone service and the only internet service can only be accessed through a computer with an antiquated hard drive at the cost of $2.00 for 15 minutes. Even the movie we are watching via the dish satellite network paused and flashed the message “Poor signal quality”. We have entered into a world that I do not experience except when there are power outages. The digital divide definitely exists here!
The feeling of being disconnected is disconcerting. For my son, it is painful. His need to be connected with his friends is an essential part of his life. I remember when we had taken a trip years back when my daughter was a teenager. We were not as connected then, but IM was a part of her daily life. The need to find a hotel with an internet connection was a priority in her mind. While an internet connection is a bonus for my son, it is cell phone access that is a priority. He text messages as if it were IM, smiling and laughing as each new message arrives. He sends photos of his recent sightings of interesting cars and sights sharing his experiences as he goes inviting his friends to become a part of his experience. The world is much smaller and flatter for him and millions of others. Being connected is part of his being in the world.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Finding a Master Teacher on the Rapids

The Thai Stem massage worked its magic…
Today will test whether the knots of tension will return. We are off to go zip-lining and white water rafting over the Kicking Horse River.

Zip-lining is really quite simple, after you attach all types of safety harnesses and the zip-line roller. Sit down in the harness, the ripcord is pulled and off you go- flying through the air. Arms out to slow down. Torpedo style to speed up. Raise your legs up at the end as a brake slows you down to a stop. The ride is both fun and exhilarating.

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Zip-lining side-by-side, it is fun to see who will be first. But, it is clear that weight is the deciding factor. The one who most needs to go on a diet always wins!
The last zip-line ride takes requires a climb to the top of a tower. From there we sail through the air, across the Kicking Horse River where we spot rafts out on the river- our next stop!

There are several raft companies on the river. We selected the Kootenay Raft Company for our afternoon ride. With the glacier water in the river running at about two degrees above a slushie, we prepare ourselves by dressing in a wet suit, polar fleece jacket, followed by a water repellant jacket which velcros tightly at the neck in hopes of keeping the frigid water from trickling down our backs. Add in wet suit boots, a helmet, and a paddle and we are ready to brave the rapids. Standing by the water’s edge, all rafters on the trip are instructed with demonstrations in safety guidelines and in what to do if you happen to fall overboard- clearly something I DO NOT WANT TO HAPPEN TO ME!

We group ourselves into three boats and the raft trip begins slowly, as our guide, Pierre, works to teach six independent rafters how to paddle, follow commands, and work together. He begins by clearly explaining what is expected. Having rafted before, much of this is not new to our family, but it is new to the family that is rafting with us. First, let me make it clear, that it is the experienced guide that will make our trip a success. He will be the one that helps us navigate the river with his knowledge of the river and the water. Without him, all of us would be in the river or would simply not make it down the river. We are to follow every command he gives to ensure our safety and enjoyment of the trip. Within the first few commands, it is clear that the young boy sitting in front of me, Andy, is not following the commands of the guide. When the guide calls ‘that is enough’ or ‘take a rest’, he continues to paddle. He sticks his paddle into the water and paddles when he is not asked to paddle. A small rapid sends him jumping to the middle of the boat. How the guide handles this is fascinating to observe. Initially, Pierre provides directions to all of the rafters in the boat, explaining what needs to be done. In a second attempt, he comes to the front of the boat and demonstrates to the young man, Andy, and my son how they should sit, wedge their foot for safety and paddle. As the raft trip continues, Pierre then becomes more directive, specifically stating that the two in the front need to watch each other to ensure that they are paddling at the same time. Each rower behind them should do the same. At one point, Pierre, directs his comments directly to Andy. Using a slight joking tone, he questions, “What are you doing quitting on me up there? Are you getting tired?” As we maneuver the raft down the river, Pierre laments that he feels that he is usually very precise, but is missing about fifty percent of what he is steering for and aiming for us to experience. How like a teacher to feel the lack of success as a personal failing. At one point, Pierre suggests that we give someone else a chance in the front, nodding to Andy’s brother Ned. But, Ned will have nothing of it. Nothing seems to be working.
The entire time, the teacher voice in me is screaming to come out. How is it that Andre is not seeing the situation in the same way? He does not appear to even recognize that he is not meeting the expectations of the guide. He has not absorbed the idea that this must be a coordinated effort. After Pierre calls for us to stop paddling once again and repeats the command again with no response from Andy, I find that I am unable to hold it in any longer. I speak my only sentence about the situation to Andy, “He doesn’t want you to paddle now.” He finally stops.
Now shall I add in that his mother breaks into humming and singing everytime the action on the rapids gets exciting?

Truly, the rapids were wonderful. We rafted through class 2, class 3, and class 4 rapids. The exhilaration and adrenaline of paddling your way through challenging rapids with icy water splashing and soaking you was thrilling. It is because of our talented and experienced guide Pierre that we were able to have such an amazing experience. His calm, yet determined and differentiated, approach to guiding his rafters was masterful. His understanding and ability to adjust his guiding and steering to compensate for the uneven paddling of his rafters was truly the mark of a master teacher.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Taking a Break

Summer provides a chance to take a break from everyday routines, to rejeuvenate your self, and to experience new people and places. This summer we headed from Philadelphia to Toronto and then to Calgary where we headed out to explore the Canadian Rockies. As we began our drive out of Calgary, the mountains slowly began to rise up out of the earth. The scene gives promise that this break would be spectacular.

We’ve arrived in Lake Louise for a two-night stay at the Post Hotel. Nestled beside the Pipestone River. I can hear the rapids running as I stand on our balcony. The ‘town centre’ is a small strip mall of gift shops, a grocery store, bakery, deli, sports store, art gallery, candy/ice cream shop, and liquor store, accented with two gas stations, a restaurant and an information center. The size of the town centre belies the number of people that visit here. Just beyond the town center is the gigantic Lake Louise Fairmount Hotel, a destination in itself, nestled on the edge of Lake Louise.

But, it is the Spa at the Post Hotel and a Thai Stem Massage that I am looking forward to the most…a relaxing ninety minutes of massage, stretching and a soothing hot lemongrass rub. It will magically release the tension and muscle knots that seem to be impervious to all other remedies.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Who's Who and What's What in Library 2.5?

Feed, Tag, Research: Remixing for School Library 2.5
Presented by a Who’s Who Panel in Library 2.5:
Joyce Valenza. Cathy Nelson, Carolyn Foote, Anita Beaman, Diane Cordell, and Kim Cofino
So you think your world has changed? Drop in and see how this international line-up of school librarians have embraced the tools and rethought what it means to be a librarian and have a library.

Librarians are the school CIO

  • We need to lead from the center.
  • We need to partner in the information landscape.
  • We need to communicate with our learners in remote ways.
  • We need to lend digital flash drives, digital cameras.
  • The library should be a place to go for anything you need in terms of knowledge.

Rethinking databases.
  • We need widgets and gadgets and an amazon-like business model that allows us to subscribe when we need it.
  • Students don't know what the databases they need.
  • We need to make them available to them as they need them and be able to set up RSS feeds to receive the data.
  • Think about information in a bigger way
  • News is not just in English and Western.

Rethinking Collections
  • Collection includes the knowledge that our students give us.
  • How do we gather that together and make it available for others?
  • How do we organize the students' work and insure equity?
  • How do we ensure equitable information access and delivery? See Intellectual Freedom for Youth by Annette Lamb
  • Engage Ethics- making sure that everyone in your school is aware and that they also contribute not just use it.

Changing Your Perspective
  • Using the tools for professional development
  • Using the tools for Parent workshops
  • Think about working with an administrator differently.
  • Principals may not be aware what the library is there for.
  • Maybe the library needs to look at how they market themselves.
  • What do you want from our school librarian?
  • Are we sure what the mission is for the campus mission?
  • How can we help them?
  • How can you be transformative and be a change agent?
  • The key is advocating for students first not advocating for the library or the program

How to be Popular with Your Principal
  • Share, share, share
  • Figure out how your principal learns best? Just like you would with the students.
  • Podcast, summarize and highlight
  • Email a link, read a book, send a youtube video
  • Be there- be at meetings, be a resource
  • Be a partner, not a judge. If you are judging you are not working as a parter
  • Share your campus success stories.

Think of Yourself as a Corporate Librarian

  • Read principal blogs, journals, etc.
  • Think of your librarian as innovation central- be the person for innovative creative thinking.
  • Focus on the big picture - on the whole campus, not just the library.
  • All the new web2.0 tools are just a new way of interacting with others
  • Create a shared vision.
  • Do ongoing workshops.
  • Embrace technology yourself.
  • Think about ways you can start leaderless organizations to empower others to do the same.
  • Change the way you see yourself!

How to Reach Out and Get Others Involved
  • There are too many choices- need to help others change in small ways
  • Need to expand the SPACE that people are operating in and the mindset they are bringing to the situation
  • Engage other teachers as co-learners
  • eliminate the stress others feel- make them comfortable learners
  • Step 1- interview them- What are you doing now? What do you think might need revamping or change?
  • The tools need to support the content
  • Reassure people that everyone is an expert
  • Don't come at them with a lot of vocabulary that they do not understand
  • Use word that the learne can identify with
  • Narrow the choices and help them select
  • One size does not fit all
  • If the old tools work better than you don't need to do something
  • You are a help point- be there physically to help them out
  • Age doesn't matter- encourage lifelong learning
  • Have fun- play with things, don't be afraid to fail
  • Celebrate success

Also visit these sites for additional information:

Monday, August 04, 2008

Should You Allow Cell Phones in School?

It's in Your Pocket: Teaching Spectacularly with Cell Phones
presented by Hall Davidson at NECC 2008, San Antonio

With common controversies about student use of cell phones in school, Hall Davidson asks us to step back and consider what they could be used for if they were allowed in schools.

Current Best Practices with Cell Phones

  • telephone
  • text messenger
  • video player
  • still camera
  • GPS device
  • Internet
  • Podcast
  • Music player
Can we really ignore such a readily available device?
The parents are not going to let you take their cell phones away because they can ‘track, monitor, stalk, tether, document’ their kids actions with them.

A few statistics...
Globally, there are twice as many active users of SMS text messages as there are users of email.
3.6 billion cell phones already in use
30 countries exceed 100% penetration in 2006

So how could we use a cell phone?

  • qik – Get a live feed from your cell phone. From a cellphone the principal can watch the security cameras in the building from IP security cameras.
  • Create and upload videos from cell phone- Fill out mobile profile on youtube, go onto camera and send video file.
    • Video sub plans
    • Administrator sending video updates
    • Push video messages out to the public – engadget mobile
    • Pre and post survey of what student learned today
  • Jott
    • Twitter a message
    • Send an email reminder
    • Send to blogs
    • Instant transcription service - Document an intervention in RTI
    • Translation
  • GCast
    • Record podcasts
    • Record interviews, podcasts while on a field trip

  • Text
    • Text me a story in six words
    • PollEverywhere- real time 41411
    • Can also poll by sending text message
    • 2D bar code- Take a picture of the bar code and will get info about item.
With all of these uses is it any wonder why our students love their cell phones?

So, when ar
e we going to realize that a powerful tool is readily available in the hands of our students without a district having to go out and buy more expensive hardware?

iphone photo by neodelphi on flickr
photo by tow_adam on flickr