Wednesday, August 31, 2005 

Small Pieces...Firefox, Greasemonkey,Flickr, Google Maps, Google Earth

The concept of Small Pieces is starting to click in for me thanks to Rob, Cogdog and Dave Weinberger. Without going into the concept, (that's what the previous links are for) here's my experience today.

I received a comment on my Flickr site about a photo of some students with GPS units. He asked what it was about. I explained it briefly but knew there was a way to "geotag" the image and link it to a map to show its exact location. I installed the Greasemonkey extension and a few scripts (if you're reading this and thinking..this is way to techie for me, I don't understand how all this works, I just read and follow instructions) and I was pretty much set.

Following the detailed instructions, I was able to create a link to geobloggers which takes advantage of google maps API. There was even a link to Google Earth which in case you didn't know is my favourite freeware program. The Posse is planning a podcast tomorrow and I'll talk more about it then.

So all these small pieces allowed me to find out a great deal and even discovered a few other treasures along the way.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005 

Blogs as Key Tools for Assessment

I listened to a nice podcast from Lauer, Wilson, Richardson and Burt. They did a similar style conversational podcast that we at the "posse" do. In fact, their conversation revolved around Web 2.0 which mirrors our last podcast.

Will Richardson made an excellent point about the role of blogs in assessment. He talked about his desire as a parent to be able to look at his daughter's work and really get to know what she's learning and be able to participate more fully in the process. We talk an awful lot as educators as partners with parents in their child's education. Mostly this is talk as we really don't provide them with the access they need to be involved. Blogs do provide a means to be transparent and a way for parents to look at their child's work and be better able to see what they've learned and what they still need to learn. Will also mentions his disdain for grades, especially in early education. Blogs can provide a means for effective classroom assessment and bring the parents a better window into their child's learning. Paraphrasing Will, he sees blogs doing three things in the area of assessment.
  1. Provide access to content
  2. Allow for interaction
  3. Understand what the grades mean
Even if at the very least, teachers begin to blog about their classroom as a means of communicating daily routines and assignments, it still brings the parents a better understanding of their child's day. Combine that with student blogs that really explore their learning and you have the makings of a powerful partnership. The discussion at parent teacher conferences can now revolve around specifics about learning instead of a simple grade. Assessment for learning can happen. Will all parents buy in? No. Our job is to create the best possible opportunity for students to learn and parents to be a part of that. Blogs are today's best tool for the job.

I talked to Kathy Cassidy, a first grade teacher who I helped get started blogging back in March. She said the parent response to their students writing was very positive and even included grandparents and other family members. Now you really have a team of people supporting a child's learning.

Saturday, August 27, 2005 

One of the most inspiring blogs

I've been following the story of Dwayne Harms, a Saskatoon pastor dying of cancer. Dwayne Harms died on August 16,2005.

This story from the Saskatoon Star Phoenix tells his story and how his weblog inspired hundreds of people from around the world.

Weblogs have proven to be a more powerful communication tool than the static webpage. This type of conversation has the ability to provide perspective and understanding that might not happen. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to tell your kids you have cancer? Here's an inside look at that question and more like it.
Read the article, check out his blog and be inspired.

Thursday, August 25, 2005 

Home Movie Workshop Observations

I completed 2 days of training with a small group of teachers from various parts of the province. The title of the workshop was "Home Movies Everyone Wants to Watch". In essence it was a basic introduction to video editing using Windows Movie Maker.

While I am working towards removing the software aspect of workshops, many teachers still want to learn software basics. While I hope the participants did some learning, I learned many things as well. Here's a few things I observed, learned and rediscovered during the two days:

  1. Personal connection with learning is critical. This is something I've been advocating for many years. Most of my learning comes from things I've done personally. My own growth in video came mostly from doing family projects. These teachers were using their own family footage and were beginning to talk about ways to use this more in the classroom.
  2. Teachers are more focused on content than on technical issues. I'm not sure how much of this is related to better software and hardware and how much is related to teachers more comfortable with technology but after doing this type of workshop a number of times in the past 5 years, this was by far the one where the focus was on telling a good story and not using every transition and special effect possible. The participants were not "wowed" by the technology but were set on being able to tell stories effectively in the digital media.
  3. Learners need to set the agenda. Each of the parictipants had a very different project in mind. One wanted to create a DVD of a family reunion using only still pictures, another wanted to digitize some old VHS tapes, another wanted to learn how to use her new digital camcorder and another wanted to create a video for the opening of school using footage she had taken in June. I had some pre-planned projects and ideas but was able to adjust the workshop so everyone got what they wanted. This isn't always possible but is infinitely more effective when it is.
  4. Not all schools are even at a basic level of technology use. I don't use Windows Movie Maker for my editing but use it with schools because every Windows XP machine comes installed with it. Two teachers informed me they didn't have any computers in their schools with XP and had Windows 3.1 until two years ago. Yikes! They said that the principal at the school was more interested in re-decorating her office that in any technology. This is a travesty for students and teachers. I'm hoping this is a rare case but sometimes I wonder.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005 

Our Schools are Leaking

This article from David Warlick Our Schools are Leaking challenges our attitudes toward school and learning. This message has been expressed in many ways throughout the blogosphere and even within my blog. When he mentions having to move his son back into the "schedule container", it struck a cord with me as we experience the same thing in our house. The EdTech Posse touched on this in our last podcast.
Take a moment to read this article and think about your views on school and learning. Don't forget to read the comments as well.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005 

The Posse rides again

After a few weeks hiatus, the posse returns and with Stephen Downes joining the discussion. He elaborates on the concept of web 2.0 and general thoughts on the future of learning.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005 

Horizontal Collaboration

I've always been a big believer that technology must find a place in your personal life before you can really find a meaningful use in the classroom. Teachers, because of a variety of influences and pressures, have had a hard time implementing technology to the fullest in their classrooms. I'm guessing that those who have had the most success, also use it as part of their personal lives.

In my circles, Skype is really taking off as a viable option to long distance. I just got off the phone with a friend who just moved to the Czech Republic. He found out about Skype via my family blog and was amazed at the clarity of the conversation. He'll be sharing this with his other friends and family. They'll also started a blog and will allow them to stay even more connected.

As much as I lament the slow adoption by some educators, Thomas Friedman supplies some comforting words and insights:
Many of the ten flatteners have been around for years. But for full flattening effects to be felt, we needed not only the ten flatteners to converge but also something else. We needed the emergence of a large cadre of managers, innovators, business consultants, business schools, designers, IT specialists, CEOs and workers to get comfortable with, and develop, the sorts of horizontal collaboration and value-creation processes and habits that could take advantage of this new, flatter playing field.

How you collaborate horizontally and manage horizontally requires a totally new different set of skills.
So this problem of making the most of emerging technologies is common in many circles outside of education. As teachers begin to "collaborate horizontally" in their personal lives I'm confident this will move into the classroom.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005 

Political Platforms include WiFi, Blogging and Social Networking

Thomas Friedman is a bit preturbed with the wi-fi access in New York:

I've been thinking of running for high office on a one-issue platform:I promise, if elected, that within four years America will have cellphone service as good as Ghana's.

I began thinking about this after watching the Japanese use cellphones and laptops to get on the Internet from speeding bullet trains and subways deep underground. But the last straw was when I couldn't get cellphone service while visiting I.B.M.'s headquarters in Armonk, N.Y.

Wi-fi is just one issue being discussed in the political arena,

Andrew Rasiej is running in New York City's Democratic primary for public advocate on a platform calling for wireless (Wi-Fi) and cellphone Internet access from every home, business and school in the city. If, God forbid, a London-like attack happens in a New York subway, don't trying calling 911. Your phone won't work down there. No wireless infrastructure. This ain't Tokyo, pal.

How's this for making the most of bloggers:

Mr. Rasiej is also promoting civic photo-blogging - having people use their cellphones to take pictures of potholes or crime, and then, using Google maps, e-mailing the pictures and precise locations to City Hall.

This guy's on to something. He gets it:

"One elected official by himself can't solve the problems of eight million people," Mr. Rasiej argued, "but eight million people networked together can solve one city's problems. They can spot and offer solutions better and faster than any bureaucrat

I'm not from New York, I'm not even an American but this is one platform that I'd support in a heartbeat.

Read the entire article here. (free subscription required)

Tuesday, August 02, 2005 

Online Learning Gets Physical

This article from the NY Times (free subscription needed to read the entire article) reveals how Minnesota is one state offering Physical Education online.

To most this seems like an impossible course to teach online however, in many cases, it offers great benefits to students:

"I've never seen a response like this to any course," said Frank Goodrich, a veteran football coach who is one of two instructors teaching online physical education this summer to about 60 high school students.

The course allows students to meet requirements by exercising how they want, when they want. They are required to work out hard for 30 minutes four times a week and report to their teachers by e-mail. Parents must certify that the students did the workouts.

One recent day, after Dustin McEvoy lifted weights, Sasha Hulsey swam in a lake and Marc Sylvestre played hockey, they sent in reports with details on their warm-ups, cool-downs and how fast their hearts had beat. Mr. Goodrich, reviewing their e-mail messages on his laptop the next morning, said that although most students were sticking to their required routines, a few slackers were headed toward F's.

I like the way they allow students who are practicing many of these things outside the classroom to receive credit for them. I've been fortunate to have my university advisors, encourage me to choose projects and assignments that I'd be doing anyway as part of my job. This is the kind of approach that fosters life-long learning and demonstrates it very clearly to students.

Much of traditional views of P.E. deal with social skills involved in team sports which is obviously difficult to bring to an online course. However, developing fitness and health habits can be greatly enhanced with the use of technology and even access to customized workouts.

Even the course's author, Brenda Corbin, who writes curriculums for the Minneapolis district, was dismissive at first.

"I refused to be a part of it," Ms. Corbin said of her initial reaction a year ago, when Ms. Braaten and district administrators approached her about writing the physical education course.

"How do you know they're really working out?" Ms. Corbin said she asked.

But she later changed her mind. "I was uninformed about what you can do over the computer," she said.