Four classrooms (three currently) for the past three years have been given Android tablets to use as personal learning devices. The teachers in these classrooms have embraced educational technology, trying out various tools and growing their professional learning networks. These devices are enabled with filtered 4G connectivity through Kajeet and the students are allowed to take these devices home. It has been a great project; it has been a privilege and honor to work with the students and teachers involved.
We're in the process of thinking about culminating activities for this school year, and are seeking other classrooms for a couple of projects. Here they are:
We would like to start holding weekly mystery location calls with other classrooms and perhaps track our calls through a Google Map. The Falconer teachers are open to using Skype or Google Hangouts. We would prefer to do this with other fifth-grade classrooms, but we are flexible.
The students are reading two books starting in mid-May that could lend themselves to virtual literature circles in Edmodo. We would set up groups for each class, you would have your students join these groups, and teachers would post discussion questions and other activities for each class to do and share. We've done this in the past with two of Grace Lin's books, and it's particularly worked well when each teacher takes responsibility for posting lessons for a week at a time. Since these book groups are taking place at the end of the year, we could get creative with other supplemental activities. We are planning on starting Bud Not Buddy in mid-May. Maniac Magee would be the last book covered during the last two weeks in June (Chicago Public Schools gets out fairly late, probably due to snow days.) Fourth, fifth or sixth grades with fairly good access to technology devices would be ideal. The type of device used by another school is not an issue; we'll use tools that are not platform specific. Ideally, we'd like to hold a planning meeting with interested teachers before any of these units are taught, too.
For the past couple of years, I've been working as a consultant, traveling to various locales to generally help others think about innnovation in education. This work has included running an online global education conference, delivering presentations at conferences, conducting one day workshops, curating news, writing curriculum and offering insight to individual schools, school boards, and established companies. Interestingly, I'm increasingly getting more inquiries from ed tech start ups on how best to connect to educators as well.
I've been inspired by many places I've visited and by many people I've met along the way; one project has stood out to me as particularly ideal. Since last Spring, I've worked with fellow Apple Distinguished Educator Larry Baker to think about customized professional development as part of his school's "Mercy 2.0" initiative. Mercy High School is located in Farmington Hills, Michigan, and is currently transitioning its one-to-one device program for students from PC tablets to iPads. All faculty members and freshman students have iPads; upperclassmen were given the choice of sticking with the PC tablets or purchasing an iPad (approximately 200 students did so, interestingly enough).
It's important to note that Mercy has an amazing leadership team (comprised of the head of operations, tech director, dean of students, principal, department heads and president of the school) that has been thinking and planning this transition for a significant period of time begininng with two briefings with Apple. The admin team is all on the same page in terms of believing in the power of technology to transform learning and also in their shared goal of creating a more robust digital culture within their school. For Mercy's leadership team, using iPads in the classsroom is not an optional choice for their teachers and they fully understand that they need to provide the support and professional development necessary to help their faculty become more successful. This leadership team is also very willing to listen to feedback from their faculty and alter plans as necessary in order to meet faculty needs. I think the role of this leadership team has been invaluable to Mercy 2.0 and I've encouraged Larry to document the digital transformation process. You can read more about what they've been up to in his blog, and Larry will also talk more about his work during a Mobile Learning Explorarations webinar for EdWeb this coming spring.
Because Mercy has been a digitally-oriented school for a number of years, Larry and his admin team colleagues have felt that that Mercy faculty needed specialized professional development focused on teaching with the iPad specifically and thinking through how to fully utlize iPads on the classroom. I've been contracted to spend 5 days at Mercy over the course of this year in order to help make this happen. I spent two days there last Spring, meeting with each department and conducting informal intake assessments and then returned in August to lead workshops with another Apple Distinguished Educator, Cheryl Davis. Mercy also held drop in sessions for help with specific workflow apps and workshops on using Google Apps over the late spring and summer, and required teachers to complete 10 tasks related to using the IPads and post about this to Moodle. New teachers and students attended an iPad bootcamp as well. So, by the time fall and the acutal rollout to students arrived, many teachers felt that they had had enough professional development and need time to actually implement. It was a good time to re-think about how best to use my time at Mercy.
Larry and his team then came up with the brilliant idea of inviting me back to work specficially with students. Imagine that! I was thrilled with the idea of helping Mercy iPad "wizards" come up with a plan to create a student-run tech program. During our planning meetings, I emphasized to Larry that this group should really be student-owned and that the adults would be there to facilitate, not co-opt, this group.
Thus, last Friday, I met with 26 enthusiastic and articulate young women to help them think about how they could establish a tech group at Mercy and serve as leaders within their school community. To see what we discussed, take a look at our agenda which is a little messy, but you can see our course of action for the day. You can also learn about other student-run tech programs linked to in this document and shared by colleagues from the ISED-L listserv.
We started off getting to know each other by sharing our favorite apps and tech super powers. The girls also gave us postive constructive feedback on how well the iPad program rollout is going. We then dove into a list of links and did some preliminary research on other student-run tech programs. Steve Hargadon happened to ping me while trying out videoconferencing on his phone, so we chatted with him for a bit, and also held Google Hangouts (of which one is recorded) with Jason Markey and Kern Kelley. Jason included one of his students in our conversation and they discussed their for credit student tech help desk; Kern talked about his Tech Sherpas program. Make sure to watch Kern's video and to read Larry's reflections on the day for more details. At the end of the day, we brainstormed ideas for the structure of our program, started an outline and joined a Ning created by Mercy tech director Tom James in order to faciliate group communication going forward.
Friday was an incredibly satisfying day for me, most notably because I spoke my piece, and then let the girls explore, discuss and brainstorm ideas for THEIR group. I was really impressed by their poise and enthusiasm and I was also stunned to realize how much I miss teaching. There is nothing like working with students and having synergystic moments when you know you are reaching them.
At any rate, working with Mercy High School has been such an amazing experience. We've mutually learned from each other and I've grown to really admire the leadership and teaching exhibited at this school. I can't wait to see what these tech "wizards" come up with as they continue to form their group, and I hope that I'll have the opportunity to work with others schools in a similar fashion in the future!
What truths do you hold to be self-evident about education? Please join me and many other education stakeholders in exploring the state of US education during the Great American Teach-In (http://declarationofeducation.com/), scheduled to take place on May 10th.
During this event, we will be examining what it means to be educated in the 21st century and formulating solutions to improve education. I believe that in order to do this thoughtfully, we must look within ourselves to identify and articulate our fundamental beliefs about the purpose of education. Participants will be encouraged to draft their own Declarations of Education in some format and to share these ideas with the world.
The following questions were developed to help participants reflect and over the next few weeks, I think I'll tackle these in blog posts here in preparation for writing my own Declaration. I see this as sort of an cathartic exercise similar to NPR's This I Believe series. I hope you'll think about these as well and take the time to create your own vision of education.
1. When and where do I learn best?
2. What does an ideal learning environment look like?
3. How closely do our current places of learning resemble our ideal learning environment?
4. What barriers to learning/growth exist within our current environments?
5. What will we do to make our current learning environments more perfect places to work and learn?
I also am thinking about how to involve my own kids, ages 8 and 12, as I think they have opinions on this matter. I'd like to help them better articulate their feelings about school, and to think metacognitively about their learning in order to advocate for themselves.
Let's change the current tone with education and focus on what works, what needs to change, and how we can do it together.
Today, I sent out a blast in the Global Education Collaborative about the changes to Ning's pricing. Read more about it here, but the social network creation company is experiencing financial difficulties which have led to layoffs and the discontinuation of all previously free networks created on its platform. A plan is supposed to emerge within 2 weeks, and new APIs and features are expected within 90 days. Not soon enough, I say.
I started the Global Education Collaborative using the Ning platform in 2007 after being inspired by the success of Steve Hargadon's Classroom 2.0 Ning. My site has grown slowly, but steadily, and our membership hovers around 3500 members. Steve's Ning has an astounding 40,000 educators interested utilizing new and emerging technologies within his online community. Ning has changed the way I connect to other teachers, probably almost as much as Twitter.
This afternoon as the news got out, it was fascinating to see people's reactions over Twitter. I followed a search in Twitter (#ning) and read everything from people truly shocked to others who thought it was high time people were expected to pay to others offering jobs to the laid off Ning workers. This is another example of how news can unfold via Twitter.
My first reaction was to panic and to chide myself for relying too heavily on a tool that inevitably was going to evaporate in some form. I thought about our members and how we would lose many if we moved to another platform; I thought about the all the content accrued in the GEC, too. I also thought about the current fee to have ads removed which is $19.95 per month. A friend emailed me to basically state that it's only fair to pay for services that are of high quality. I agree, but I believe that's from a business perspective, not an education perspective.
Here's essentially what I wrote in response with some edits:
Educators pay out of pocket for many items that they are never reimbursed for, and generally, they are paid much less than other professionals. Educators pour tons of manpower hours into cultivating these networks as well. There are also many non-profits who are looking for affordable, preferably free, methods of connecting with their communities. The word of mouth support for Ning from these groups is huge, and should be valued by Ning.
Wikispaces has long had a policy of making ad-free wikis available to educators because they know the intangible value of having teachers use their product. They know that educators will spread the good word and will provide feedback to them about Wikispaces. I'm wondering if Ning has ever valued educators; many of us thought this when Steve Hargadon was let go as their education evangelist last year.
The most troubling part of Ning's announcement to me was that it was announced with no plan in place. People would not be freaking out if a transition plan had been made publicly available immediately. It should have been publicized in tandem with the announcement. I think teachers would pay if such a plan existed; we are not about free loading and know that if something is of quality, it's worth a reasonable price.
One GEC member responded to my announcement in the Global Education Collaborative that several charities in Africa that he worked with had Nings and he would no longer continue with the company if they started to charge. Just think of all the good work that is going on around the world (where people AREN'T getting paid for their efforts) that may stop as a result of this decision.
The bottom line is, however, that we'll just have to wait until see what plans unfold. I hope Ning is listening carefully to its user base. If you are interested in sharing stories and thoughts about this, please take my survey and you can also see the results here.
I've been wrestling with a quick and easy way to direct students to
relevant web sites. Our new web site management system is great, but a
little clunky for quickly adding links. We have a wiki that will serve
as a repository for curricular resources, but again, it takes time to
add links to this. I also have envisioned one page of links for kids
to reference, so that little ones in particular do not have to do a
lot of web browser navigating.
So, the other day after speaking with technoguru principal, Tim Lauer,
about how he keeps web sites up to date on his school's machines, I
decided to try Pageflakes (http://www.pageflakes.com/).
Here is a tutorial wiki on Pageflakes that explains everything you
need to know:
Today, at the invitation of our drama teacher, I accompanied some middle school girls from my new school to a screening at the Chicago International Film Fest. This was my first time visiting both the Harold Washington Cultural Center which is just down the street from the schools and it was also my first time partaking in the CICFF's offerings.
This movie is so provocative and important for adults and young women to see ( I don't know if adolescent boys are ready for this). The story of a young model is told and interwoven with themes on plastic surgery, cosmetics and marketing to teens. The model and the director of this film made an appearance at the cultural center immediately following the screening, too. I was really alarmed by the girl's mother in the movie, and in person, she appeared to be just as aggressive and fame seeking. All she did while her daughter was speaking to the kids assembled was busy herself taking pictures of the audience and her daughter. I'm not just talking a few snapshots; she was making a spectacle of herself taking pictures the entire time.
Anyway, I'll be curious to hear the feedback from the kids about the movie; many seemed just star struck by the star of the movie!
I thought this site was better than typical drill types; nice sets of visuals
accompany math problems organized by grade level. The same web author publishes
a math dictionary and a writing help site. You can find these links at the
bottom of the Rainforest Maths home page.
This is a project from the state of Georgia that seeks to improve the content
knowledge of middle school math teachers. I was struck by the links within
lessons to "constructionaries", small web demonstrations of various mathematical
principles. The lessons seem to refer in general to many interactive sites
a site dedicated to math and science interactive tools. This page, in
particular, has some great tools.
This is a video library of math TV shows produced at Loyola University in
Chicago. I used to watch this show with my students two schools ago, and I think
it's great that the materials are now archived online.
Looking for a cool web site? Use the handy dandy Web bits button on this site, created by one of my fifth grade students. This same student also created the fortune teller that I blogged about awhile ago. Louis is looking for more people to visit his web site, so check it out!
My students have found me online. I haven't decided
if this is a good thing, or not, quite yet, but it definitely has me to
thinking about using chat and instant messaging to communicate with
In my sixth grade computer science class, our discussion about instant messaging started when a student asked me about my user name for a class wiki project. I explained that I use the same user name (elemenous)
for all my accounts, including the AOL Instant Messaging service (AIM),
and my students perked up immediately. They were surprised that a
teacher, of all people, actually used AIM, and I bet one class that
many more teachers use an instant messaging service than they realized.
I also explained that I use chat regularly to communicate with other
teachers around the world, and that it's been wonderful tool for
exchanging files and learning from other educators.
this discussion, the number of kids instant messaging me after school
has jumped from 1 kid last week to about 8 kids last night. I think I
had 4 different chat windows open on my computer, and it was difficult
for me to multitask. I noticed that the conversations are markedly
different than the ones I have with adults. When I chat with an adult,
I usually am pinging them for a specific reason such as tech help or to
share a resource. With kids, however, it seems as if they are sort
each other and me. This is a social tool for them, and they must be
chatting with lots of other people because often our conversations go
dead as if they were busy elsewhere. Sixth graders, IMHO, have not
learned the fine art of carrying on an online conversation.
Interestingly enough, though, one of my students told me that most of
the grade-level "drama" happens within instant messaging conversations
after school. One kid said he's learned to hit certain keys to quit IMing
quickly when his mother approaches as he's not supposed to be online
during homework time. Another kid said his mother took away his
keyboard because she thought his computer habits were too distracting
for him. (I'm making a mental note of this tactic for when my children
hit middle school.) It's fascinating to see how important this tool has
become to kids; I feel like I've been let into the club a bit as they
have been reaching out to me via IMing.
Generally, I think using instant messaging and chat rooms
in the context of learning is not something most teachers want to
incorporate into their curricula; it's a matter of digital natives
versus digital immigrants. We immigrants have been slow to realize that
this tool is wildly popular amongst adolescents, and that if we frame
its use properly, chatting via instant messaging or inchat rooms might
actually empower learning. So this week, I've compiled a slew of
related articles that might help you understand this phenomenon.
I've made a customized Google search engine using sites I commonly use when compiling Friday 5 lists. It's now listed on the left-hand side of my blog along with a box that allows people to subscribe to the Friday 5 in Google Groups. If you ask to contribute to this search engine, you can add relevant sites. It is also possible to add the search engine to your blog, homepage, or Google start page.
I can see teachers using Google Co-Op to make customized engines for various units of study. I think it's a pretty handy way to direct students research instead of just letting them loose on the Internet.
A colleague recently gave my name to a reporter from the Christian Science Monitor and here's the resulting article. I spoke and corresponded with this reporter at length, but you really can't tell from my comments. The beauty of blogging about it, though, is that I can explain myself a bit better here. And, while I am not displeased with the article, I am reminded that quotes can be taken out of context and morphed a bit. For the record, I don't think we've "chosen" to not filter content. It's just always been that way and we are not a public school that gets e-rate money which requires filtering. And, we don't offer classes in internet safety. I teach the principles in my classes, and my colleagues do workshops for high school kids, but we don't offer full term classes by any means. The general gist is correct... we want kids to learn how to use technology appropriately.
Speaking of news articles, if you ever get interviewed by a reporter, go to Google News and search for the reporter's name. Hit the RSS button on the left-hand side of the screen, and you'll have a feed pop up in your newsreader of all the current news articles written with that reporter's byline. You can also do this with Google's Blog Search, too.
I did this when I was interviewed by an AP reporter about Google's education efforts and it was so interesting to watch the news cycle involved. He probably interviewed me in September or October last year, but the article was not published until December. It first popped up in a California paper and then made the rounds to several big city papers (not the Trib or Sun-Times here in Chicago though) and then over the next few weeks, the article went international and also landed in papers of smaller cities. I think I counted that it appeared in 110 different publications over the course of about a month. In comparison, the article cited above has appeared in five different papers since April 10th. I'm fascinated by watching the spread of information, not because I like to see my name in print, but because this would not be possible without RSS technologies and it's amazing to me how we can manage information these days.
There's a new post up at the Infinite Thinking Machine that focuses on the new project of my fellow Apple Distinguished Educator and Google Certified Teacher, Jerome Burg. Jerome has instituted a project called Google Lit Trips, which are essentially guided tours of resources related to books within Google Earth. Check it out and consider making a lit trip of your own to submit to this site!
I have an idea for a collaborative Google Lit Trip that I'll post here later!
I think the National Geographic Geo Bee competition has been held at my school before, but no one has sponsored this activity since I arrived at Lab seven years ago. This year, I decided to take this on as I thought it was a basic way to facilitate global awareness. I met with kids once a week in the fall and we looked at materials, played games, and visited web sites. Lo and behold, our school winner, Tommy, has qualified for the state level competition to be held March 30 at the Field Museum. I am so excited for Tommy!! Woo hoo!
Today’s list is
inspired by an event
that took place last night sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation . The foundation recently announced a fifty
million dollar initiative to investigate digital media and learning,
and this panel discussion is the first of several regional events
planned. The following links are related to the panelists and the
ensuing conversations that took place after their initial comments.
While many may be
dismissive of the value of video games in education, I would
recommend that educators keep an open mind to the possibilities.
Engaging simulations, not the drill and kill types of games, can
potential immerse children in new experiences and problem solving
situations. In his remarks to the assembled group, Jonathan Fanton,
President of the MacArthur Foundation, cited statistics from the
Pew Internet and American Life Project that
indicate that our kids already deeply engaged in digital media and
communication. It is clear, to me at least, that education must roll with
and adapt to these changes.
I found last night’s
discussions to be inspiring, yet I still have a few questions. For
instance, David Williamson Shaffer of the University of
Wisconsin-Madison noted that computers are very important because
they have caused the transformation of information. I agree, but I
wonder how many other educators would share this view. I think many
people believe that face-to-face interactions with their students
cannot be replaced with technology, and others simply have not
stumbled upon the potential power of computers in a personally
Secondly, it was clear
to me that the panel participants are forward thinking people who are
not challenged by change. I wonder how they expect schools to adapt
to new models of learning when traditionally, most schools change
very slowly. Does technology change too rapidly for schools to keep
up? And if so, why is innovation not embraced more in schools? And,
how does school change affect students? Those are just a few of the
questions that come to my mind.
Anyway, I hope you are
as interested in this topic as I am, and that you’ll take some
time to explore the following links. Hopefully, I will blog more about my thoughts on this topic...
Writing has been on my mind this week, and so I spent time digging around for fun, interactive web sites geared towards elementary kids. My favorite find was the Student Materials Index at the always fabulous ReadWriteThink site. There’s something for everyone in this short list, and if you can think of any must visit additions, feel free to email me and I’ll publish your suggestions next week!
I wondered this fall why there was no activity coming from this vlog's feed. I don't know how I missed this as the announcement was posted October 26, 2006, but my favorite educational vlogger is no longer a regular classroom teacher. I first discovered Bre Pettis when researching video blogging for a Friday 5 edition last year.... I believe I found his stuff via a Yahoo group on vlogging. Anyway, I completely cracked up at his videos depicting events in his classroom; he clearly made learning fun for his students. He did a huge service for parents who deserve a glimpse into the learning lives of their children and for teachers looking for new ideas. Fortunately, the best of Bre has been archived here ( I like Too Much Sugar and In the Future) and he now works for Make magazine. Check out his video podcast on bridge building! If you haven't checked out Make before, you must... the print version and the web site are very interesting!
Here’s a quick Friday 5 list of sources for video and images. Teachers and students are always in need of digital material for projects but, before you publish anything using materials from others, check out this chart from Hall Davidson. Also, don’t forget about Creative Commons Search for resources that may have less restrictive copyright protection.
Before I lose my mind and forget about these things, I thought I'd post a couple of fun things to do with kids.
My students this week showed me Line Rider, an interactive Flash game in which a user draws a path and when a play button is clicked, a little person on a sled slides down this path, sometimes with disastrous results. These scenes can even be downloaded and sent to a mobile phone. It turns out people really are into creating elaborate scenes and pathways as evidenced in this related collection at Squidoo. (Squidoo, by the way, is interesting, too. I discovered it via Typepad, I think, and you can essentially build a web page called a lens. You can add various web resources such as video and links to provide support for your topic. RSS feeds to Squidoo pages are available so that you can track comments and such about a page.) At any rate, I am contemplating how Line Rider and similar games could be incorporated into educational settings. I know from a computer science stand point that it would be great to have kids program such a game, but from a simulation perspective, how can such games be used in the classroom?
After discovering the joys of Line Rider, another student directed me to Ski Battle at Addictinggames.com. One of his classmates said that he thought Addictinggames.com had inappropriate stuff, but I haven't seen anything yet beyond the usual annoying banner ad. Ski Battle is very similar to Line Rider and you can add holiday music, snowflakes and animated characters. Ski Battle also gives you the code for your creations so you can embed a scence in your web site. Also, at Addictinggames.com, I noticed a Christmas e-card maker that may interest some kids.
Finally, as I was researching online video stuff for tomorrow's Friday 5, I browsed the Google Earth Blog and noticed this post about tracking Santa and a related game in Google Earth. The GE Santa tracker piece is not new, but apparently Sketch Up has been incorporated this. Sounds like fun and I am planning to try this with my kids. Too bad Santa won't let me open my Christmas present until the big day... a brand new iMac! Tracking Santa would look so much better on a big screen!
I’ve been stewing all week, trying to decide on a theme for this week’s edition. While browsing the Edublogs Awards blog, I discovered a great entry in the Best Audio and/or Visual Blog category called Classroom Displays. The author, Linda Hartley, also runs an accompanying wiki and Flickr group .
This Flickr group inspired me to search for other education related ones, and these groups make up this week’s Friday 5. While I have used Flickr for a year or two to manage photos, I haven't explored it as much as I probably should. It dawned on me while viewing Linda’s group that this is a superb way for people, and teachers in particular, to share their experiences and ideas visually. Take a look and I think you will agree. I would have appreciated seeing examples of other teachers' work when I was new to the profession!
If you are unclear on the Flickr concept, check out these links for a little background info. Also, keep in mind that Flickr membership is free, although I recommend the Pro memberships for added benefits which is a reasonble $25 per year.
Also, browse the aforementioned Edublogs Award site and you will notice that the Infinite Thinking Machine is nominated for the best group blog category. Consider voting for the ITM as it’s a new project with which I am involved!
Glad to see that Amazon has re-joined SchoolPop! If you shop at Amazon via the Schoolpop portal, a 2% donation will be made to the school of your choice. I also shop through Box Tops for Education, but Amazon is not one of their affiliated merchants. The Apple Store, though, is listed on both sites.
These types of sites work when you sign up for an account and click on their links to the store of your choice. The web sites are able to track your purchases and then make a donation to your selected school based on a percentage of the sale. If you simply go directly Amazon or wherever, you will not get credit for shopping through the portal and your school will not get the donation. The percentages usually are not more than 5%, but every little bit can help, I suppose.
Fortunetellers were big in my mid-elementary school life. If you have no clue what I am talking about, check out this site and its accompanying instructional video.
One of my fifth grade students designed an Apple themed one and I asked him if I could post it here because I thought it was clever. Perhaps I could have students make other fortune tellers, perhaps related to say, computer ethics or millenial terminology. Maybe we could even program a digital fortune teller in Microworlds!
Anyway, the student who created this is also is responsible for the Apple Pro Care idea I posted last spring. He has a APC membership and goes to the Apple store for classes that he has registered for online. It's quite a deal if you take advantage of the classes on a regular basis. As a result, this student has gotten to be pretty tech savvy!
This list of 50 ideas to stop global warming is the culmination of a joint project between Google and Global SchoolNet. Using Google Docs and Spreadsheets, students from around the world brainstormed ideas and the best were selected for the Google for Educators web site. An ad featuring one of the ideas will also be published in USA Today. My sixth grade students participated in this project, and we learned a great deal about our environment while figuring out how to use spreadsheets collaboratively!
My fifth graders are immersed in our All About Me project right now. They have created self-portraits in Art Rage, and right now they are using Inspiration to develop plans for the audio portion of this project. The next step will be to record and edit Garageband. After we complete this section, we'll be making movies in iMovie and then putting all the pieces together in an interactive slideshow using eZedia.
This project allows me to get to know the fifth graders a bit better, and I discovered that one of my students spends a great deal of time every summer in one of my most favorite places in the world, Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Sarah's mom is an assistant teacher in my son's class, so I asked her about this and it turns out that they have been summering for years in a spot very close to where I went to camp as a middle and high school student.
Teton Valley Ranch Camp used to be located in Kelly, WY, just across Jackson Hole from Grand Teton National Park and at the foot of the Gros Ventre mountain range (it has since moved). My mother went to this camp as well as did my best friend growing up and her dad. It was one of the pivotal experiences of my life. I learned to ride Western style and do gymkhana, climbed Static Peak, swam a horse across a river, branded calves, helped with a camper-led pack trip, camped on snow high in the mountains, and watched the sunset on the Idaho side of the Tetons while a full moon rose on the Wyoming side. Experiential learning at its best, I have to say.
When I was newly married, I dragged my husband out west for a two week jaunt through Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico, making sure that he understood why my time spent out there was so important to me. He got it and at the tail end of our trip when some plans fell through in Denver, he said, "You need more mountains!" and rerouted us through Telluride en route to Santa Fe. He was absolutely right, and I loved how he got that about me.
Nowadays, I think both my kids (ages 4 and 8) and I are a bit nature deprived. Here in Illinois, we have to work at discovering special outdoor spaces since we don't have majestical mountains at our doorstep. Julia is not too far away from being of age for TVRC, and I hope we can afford the tuition when the time comes. It is simply a character and confidence building experience that my kids need to have.
While thinking about this the past few days, it also occured to me that my love of anything visual and of multimedia comes ironically from this camp as well. Every January, the camp directors would roll into Chicago with the annual slideshow for current and prospective campers. The director behind this, Matt Montagne, used his fantastic photography skills and music to recreate the summer for us and these shows were tremendous. I remember he always used Mason Williams' Classical Gas in the slideshows, and I cannot hear that piece without thinking of my amazing times hiking, riding and playing in the Tetons.
Interestingly enough, technology has caught up with the Teton Valley Ranch Camp. They've had a web site now for a few years, and today I noticed that they have a portal called eCamp where parents can view photos and get news of camp happenings. At least kids are probably still writing letters home the good old fashioned way... some places are better left untouched by email!
Practical sites seem to be very helpful to Friday 5 readers, so I am continuing with that theme. This week, learn all about online calendars as a way to organize your life and communicate with parents and students. Along with my flashcards and notetaking lists, your students can get organized digitally!
Google recently just launched a page for teachers which was developed after Google solicited advice from teachers, including several from Lab last spring. I just noticed that Google is sponsoring their first collaborative project for students using one of their products, Google Spreadsheets and Docs, formerly known as Writely. Google Spreadsheets and Docs, as the name implies, are online wordprocessing documents and spreadsheets which can be have multiple contributors and can be shared with others in a number of ways.
In this global warming project, participants are asked to brainstorm ideas for fighting global warming in a spreadsheet, and the top 50 ideas will be published in an full page ad in the Washington Post later this year. For more details, visit http://www.google.com/educators/globalwarming.html .
Just a quick practical list today as I am busy completing a bunch of projects. This was inspired by a colleague who needed recommendations for online flashcards.
This is the last Friday 5 to be published in various listservs and locations. In an effort to streamline the publishing process, I will only post to my blog and Google Groups. Below are instructions for joining the new and improved Friday 5 group:
1) If you currently subscribe via Yahoo! Groups or Topica, you will received an email invitation last week to join the new Friday 5 Google Group. You do NOT need an Gmail account to join.
2) If you read the Friday 5 via the Collaboratory Project, the WIT list, or the NLU TIE list, send me an email at email@example.com and I can automatically add you or issue an invitation for you to join yourself.
NetDay Speak Up Day 2006 registration is now open! Our school has participated in this annual event for a few years. Kids and teachers have answered surveys about how they are currently using technology. Schools have access to their aggregated data, and the complete data set is used to demonstrate the importance of educational techology to various decision makers. It's a great way to learn more about students and how they use technology. This year, parents are also invited to take the survey. The survey will be open from November 1 through November 30, 2006.
I'm interested in continuing the conversation about global awareness, and I've taken the liberty of starting a .Mac group on this topic. I've never really taken advantage of .Mac groups before, so this provides an opportunity to explore this tool as well.
My goal is to provide an inclusive forum for ADEs, informal external partners, and other interested educators to discuss and share anything related to global education. Many ADEs who attended this year's institute consulted outside resources in preparation for the trip; this forum may be a way to include these groups. I see this .Mac group as a vehicle for sharing resources, collaborating on projects, and for possibly garnering feedback on our various curriculum projects. I am sure there are other ideas that we can come up with regarding how to best utilize this resource.
If you'd like to join this group, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, and I'll send you an invitation with instructions on how to join. Feel free to pass this on to other people that may be interested as well. Participants do not need an active .Mac account to join, only a .Mac ID.
Someone pointed this out on the ADE listserv today, and I'm proud to say that it's the invention of two people from my alma mater. It has become a back to school tradition and an interesting lens for examining today's students. The most interesting piece for me is that this year's college freshman class comes from "a generation that has always been 'connected' and is used to things happening in 'real time', like live satellite coverage of revolutions and wars, instant messaging and movies on demand, " according to Professor Tom McBride. The other item that stands out to me in light of my recent travels to Berlin is that for this group, there has always been one Germany. At some point in the timeline of generations, I think most adults lose sight of what it's like to be a young adult and I like how this list tries to give a frame of reference to educators. In order to reach and teach your students, you have to understand where they are coming from.
Personally, the yearly list reminds me of how I have benefitted from my Beloit education. I'm especially excited because I'll be visiting there next month to celebrate the retirement of my college tennis coach and Beloit professor who's been there for 40 years!
School's out and I am ready for some adventure! I am pinching myself because the summer of a lifetime awaits me. In two weeks, my family and I will be traveling to San Diego so that I can attend NECC 2006 and so that we all can do the Southern California tourist thing... Sea World, San Diego Zoo, Disneyland etc.
And, I had this all planned before I knew about the Apple Distinguished Educator Institute for this summer which promises to be another amazing experience. We're traveling to Europe July 21 -31 to collaborate on a digital global awareness curriculum in conjunction with EF Tours. We will be addressing an essential question via four themes, and this curriculum will hopefully be published on Apple's web site in the fall.
At any rate, I plan to be blogging on a more regular basis now that I have some time. As instructed by David Warlick in a recent post regarding tags for NECC, I'm adding mine here:
I'm in the midst of watching this program, and in the intro, Melinda Gates states that no one is noticing the decline of American education. Hello?!?! Talk to any teacher... go to any education conference... we teachers are acutely aware of the realities discussed in this program. It's about time Oprah drew attention to what we already know.
I'm also struck by the comment of a Harper High student (Harper is in Chicago) when touring Nequa Valley High School. She said something along the lines of the nicest Chicago school could not compare to the Naperville school. It's about time that people living in Chicago saw how other schools operate. I have always felt that many people have been completely unware of the HUGE discrepencies in educational institutions.
I attended schools throughout my life that were more than adequately funded, and I just assumed that all other schools were like mine. In college, I became aware that this was not the case, particularly after I read a series on the Tribune that focused on Goudy School in Chicago. That series partly motivated my decision to particpate in the Associated Colleges of the Midwest's Urban Ed program and to subsequently teaching in Chicago Public Schools.
Other thoughts going through my brain.... good education is expensive. Let's fund things properly. Secondly, the way we are doing things isn't working as effectively as we thought. Why aren't educators thinking more about innovation? Let's start thinking outside the box people!
Tonight I caught up on my tivoed (is that even a real word?) episodes of Chicago Tonight. I watched this year's first installment of the Chicago Matters series on education and school funding is the focus of this series. I cannot for the life of me figure out why we continue the same method of funding schools here in IL and why some brilliant person hasn't figured out a better way of doing things.
Anyway, my jaw dropped midway through this segment because a high school senior at Thorton High School was interviewed about the impact of funding cuts on the classroom. This kid was my student about 8 or 9 years ago and now has made the best of his high school experience. He is going to Stanford on a Fulbright Scholarship next fall! He looked different, so at first I was skeptical that this was the same Cameron I had as a student. But, I quickly remembered what a driven kid Cameron was in third grade, and his success doesn't surprise me. He was the cutest little boy... very solemn with great big eyes. I wonder about other kids from Pirie that I had... Terrence who wrote an essay about me on inspirational women (this totally cracked me up) a year or two after I left Pirie... Brandon... Tatiana... Jessica from my first school...I'm starting to forget names which really bums me out!
I occasionally run into students from my prior teaching lives, and their stories aren't always as rosy. I ran into one student at Toys R Us when my now 7 year old was just a baby. This kid was 19 and had three children already. The last former student I encountered was in the checkout line at Target over Christmas. I think she recognized me first as she was avoiding my eyes while tallying up my stuff, but then I when I saw her nametag, I realized she had been this adorable red headed kid in one of my first grade classes. She now is 19 and had a nose ring! My how things change! And my do I feel OLD!
I'm always amazed when things like this happen.... there is a reason for everything and it is indeed a small world.