Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Please move to Thinking Allowed.

If you get this via RSS subscription, or if you've ended up here for something else, please note that I will be doing all of my posting at Thinking Allowed from now on. For awhile I was posting to both that site and this one, but now to make the move complete and official, I will stop posting here. Please change your blogrolls and subscriptions accordingly.

Here's the link for the Thinking Allowed. feed directly.

Thanks for coming by and giving my thoughts an audience and more importantly feedback.

photo found at flickr creative commons. Taken by suckamc.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Earcos07 - Day 2

Day 2 of the conference brought us another wonderful student keynote who spoke on the Chinese tale of the Frog in the Well. The frog only has a limited view of the sky through the top of the well, and until she is moved and shown the true nature of things, her horizons and her perspective are never changed. A fine start to the day for teachers to think about and to consider international education.

Then, the ever dynamic, Ian Jukes came on to speak. With excellent supporting visuals, Ian spoke on the dire need for our schools to address the thinking skills needed to prepare students for the world that outside of education has changed and continues to change so rapidly. Great quote from Woodrow Wilson, "it's easier to move a cemetery, than it is to change a curriculum." He makes a terrific point that the main difficulty is that the change we are dealing with is hard to comprehend and so it is hard to make our own changes when we are dealing with the "tyranny of the urgent."

Kids today are different - Jukes spoke on how the visual cortex of the brain is larger, more developed than kids of 20 years ago. "Screenagers", he called them, citing two Time Magazine articles. Interestingly, he talked about how current research seems to indicate that our brains continue to adapt and make new connections. But the brain needs regular exposure to the "change-maker" to make this change. So does this have implications on our schools? (rhetorical)

Jukes talked a fair amount on games and their impact on kids. He encouraged us to learn about these games, to play them with kids and to get our "asses kicked" by kids. They are hard-wiring themselves through these technologies. We should need to tap into this.

I saw a lot of Ian Jukes this week. And the message is clear. Change is here...change is fast (exponential) and getting faster. And predicting the future? Impossible. So what does that mean for us? It means that we need schools to be different. I haven't had "my own" class in a few years now and I do think about how I would do things differently if I were in the classroom again. But my need for change in education is even greater now. As the tech-guy, this stuff seems to fall under my umbrella for change. And I need to work out how to convince a curriculum office to dump content and adopt thinking skills, a faculty to include me in their lesson planning, and an administration to hire and evaluate based on a willingness to adapt to these ideas and change the way schools work.

Is this overstepping my bounds? Probably. But the need seems to strong to ignore. Education really seems to be failing kids. They seem to be learning in spite of us, not with us. Maybe that's too harsh, but I liken it to the exact opposite of wikipedia. Wikipedia is accurate at the macro-level, but could be inaccurate at the micro. I think real learning is possibly working in individual rooms with individual teachers, but we are failing miserably on the school-wide education-as-a-whole level in preparing kids for futures requiring 21st century skills. (speaking of which, I attended a workshop on these skills that set us back on moving forward more than anything I've seen....good presentation is good presentation and when it isn't good...ouch. Until I get up and start presenting myself in that forum, I suppose I should not judge).

Luckily, I am spoiled. I work with a forward thinking leader colleague and am about to be joined by another in the ES. I saw many faces from my school at the various Jukes sessions. The tide could start changing at ISB and I think that those who are interested is as good a place to start as any. Let's see how many come to school on Monday wanting to be committed.

[if you are reading this post, then you are visiting Harter Learning. I have moved my blog over to edublogs (for a variety of reasons which I detail on that blog) under the name, Thinking Allowed. If you are one of my few subscribers, you may want to switch to the Thinking Allowed Feed or at least start going there for further posts. For the near future, I will post on both blogs, like this one.]

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Earcos07 - Day 1

Great start to the conference.

A student from my school, ISBangkok, gave the first ever student keynote address. As expected, she was incredible, speaking to what it means to be a Global Citizen. She emphasized that it took more than being an international student, but also required breaking down barriers that exist between nationalities within an international school and bringing common experience to all. She likened her journey towards global citizenry to exploration for the New Atlantis. A new world of global awareness and of solving global issues.

Not without intent, this led well into the keynote speaker Jean-Francois Rischard who spoke about topics from his book High Noon: 20 global problems and 20 years to solve them. He spoke to global issues that need to be dealt with AND CAN BE DEALT WITH, but require systemic changes in the way the world can approach them. While his outlook seemed bleak, his solutions were do-able...if only world leaders would listen. At times, I wonder whether world experts can get together and begin to develop solutions without the world leaders' blessings.

I attended two sessions by Ian Jukes today. He spoke on the exponential times that we live in. Change is inevitable, but more importantly it is nearly incomprehensible. The degree to which access, processing power, information, and bio- and nanotechnology will infuse our lives in the coming (soon) years is crazy. His best line of the day: "the difference between science fiction and reality? Science fiction is more believable." So what are the implications on our curriculum? What curriculum? Content can no longer be the focus...higher order thinking and communication must be. I worry less about the technology skills of students and more about their ability to use with responsibility, with understanding, and with critical evaluation. We cannot prepare them for the tech. that will exist. But we NEED to prepare them for the thinking that they'll require.

So when and how can we re-invent schools to focus on thinking skills instead of "content"? Who makes this call and how do they make it with majority teacher, parent, and administrative groups that are stuck in 1960's educational needs and outcomes?

Good stuff.

Looking forward to hitting Jeff's workshops in the coming days.

[if you are reading this post, then you are visiting Harter Learning. I am in the process of moving the blog over to edublogs (for a variety of reasons which I detail on that blog) under the name, Thinking Allowed. If you are one of my few subscribers, you may want to switch to the Thinking Allowed Feed, though for the near future, I am going to post on both blogs.]

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Earcos begins tomorrow

I will be attending the EARCOS ETC conference in Bangkok, starting tomorrow and running through the weekend. This year there seems to be a focus on technology as there are a bunch of quality presentations going on regarding 21st century learning skills and other tech-focused subjects. Ian Jukes is one of the keynote speakers and I will also be attending a pre-conference session with him.

The hard part this year is going to be choosing which session to go to when multiple 'interesting' sessions happen at the same time. I will try to blog about some of the thoughts that come out of this conference, as I am sure that Jeff Utecht, from Thinking Stick will do as well (he is also presenting).

One cool random fact about the wife designed the "cover" art. She'll probably kill me for telling people, but I'm very proud, she's got a great sense of design.

On a side note, if you are reading this post, then you are visiting Harter Learning. I am in the process of moving the blog over to edublogs (for a variety of reasons which I detail on that blog) under the name, Thinking Allowed. If you are one of my few subscribers, you may want to switch to the Thinking Allowed Feed, though for the near future, I am going to post on both blogs.

Posts on the ETC conference to come...

Monday, March 12, 2007

"The Resilient Power of Common Sense" - Wikipedia in the Economist

The Economist just ran an article on Wikipedia, which while behind the times for us in ed. tech. blogging, is a good indicator on how the rest of the web-not-quite-2.0 world perceives it or will come to perceive it. After all, the Economist is the intellectual's magazine.

"Wikipedia has strengths too, chiefly the resilient power of collective common sense."
The article shares how anonymity can be a problem with Wikipedia, but then argues that collectively it is in fact VERY well maintained and that even many of the pretend-experts are conscientious, careful, and accurate.

"Constant scrutiny and editing means even the worst articles are gradually getting better, while the best ones are kept nicely polished and up to date. Someone, eventually, will spot even the tiniest error, or tighten a patch of sloppy prose. Mr Jordan, for all his bragging, seems to have been a scrupulous and effective editor."

It's a great article to share with your teachers. As much as I have tried, I come across teachers who are resistant to the idea that Wikipedia can be trusted or that Wikipedia can be used as a source by students. They think that they are teaching good research skills. I think they are missing an opportunity for students to think critically, to defend arguments, and to confirm information from other sources.

Has anyone else come across the attempting-to-be-web-savvy teacher who in efforts to show they are "with it" with new technologies, make the pre-emptive ban on using Wikipedia as a source with students?

Are we not missing out on conversations with students on "collective common sense"? Or global participatory culture? Educators complain about misuse and abuse of social networking sites like MySpace, but fail to acknowledge the powerful force for shared knowledge that Wikipedia (and other sites have become). Web 2.0 is being used for good right in front of even the most tech-resistant noses, but they miss it hiding behind "anyone could write it, so it's not allowed."

"The quality of writing is often a good guide to an entry’s usefulness: inelegant or ranting prose usually reflects muddled thoughts and incomplete information. A regular user soon gets a feel for what to trust."

I thought that was a nice quote to describe exactly what we are missing out on, by not allowing kids to use Wikipedia. Don't we want kids developing that skill of getting "a feel for what to trust"?

I'm going to be sharing this article with my staff. Let's see if it can get our own conversation started.

[on a side note...Conservapedia?!? Really?!]

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Our Imperative to teach Safe, Responsible Social Networking

The Washington Post has had some gems lately...glad I have them on my Netvibes.

A recent article delves into a continuing, but also growing problem in online social networking sites where rumors and disinformation and personal attacks are impacting people's lives negatively (to understate it). It's a very scary article on what happens when the Web 2.0 tool gets used badly.

The article starts with the story of a Phi Beta Kappa, Yale Law graduate who did not get many call backs and received no job offers. Though admittedly difficult to prove, she claims that this was a result of deragatory postings about her in a well-read public forum on AutoAdmit.

"The woman and two others interviewed by The Washington Post learned from friends that they were the subject of derogatory chats on a widely read message board on AutoAdmit, run by a third-year law student at the University of Pennsylvania and a 23-year-old insurance agent. The women spoke on the condition of anonymity because they feared retribution online."

The forum in question contains useful information about law schools and law firms, but also contains hundreds of posts filled with racism and bigotry. But the site's founder says it's free speech.
"The students' tales reflect the pitfalls of popular social-networking sites and highlight how social and technological changes lead to new clashes between free speech and privacy. The chats are also a window into the character of a segment of students at leading law schools. Penn officials said they have known about the site and the complaints for two years but have no legal grounds to act against it. The site is not operated with school resources."

This is out there. It's real. How much more hiding from it can educators do? Ignorance on this type of thing is simply no longer acceptable for teachers. This is the world that a participatory web 2.0 has created. One in which anyone can say anything about anyone else. We can't just teach kids to protect themselves, instead teachers have to assume the responsibility of teaching students to be responsible users as well.

The technology is new(ish), but it isn't going away. As a teachnology facilitator, it's my job to make sure that teachers get this. I need to show them how important it is for our students to learn how to use the tool properly AND responsibly. It is worth noting here that the "misuers" in this article are law students slandering their peers.

Dare I quote it? "With great power comes great responsibility." (Thanks, Spidey.)

The educational power of Web 2.0 is out there for us to embrace: collaboration, critical thinking, communication. But not all teachers have jumped on board. Maybe we are still too content focused in our curriculum. Maybe "the kids are going to learn the technology anyway", since they spend so much time on it outside of school (side note: why wouldn't this be a reason to make school more like that?). But even if that's the case, this article reminds us how important it is to have conversations with students about the implications of their actions.

So whose job is this? Only mine as the tech. guy? Parents? What about all educators? What about the village? But here in lies the rub: most of those people don't even know what's out there. They don't know that this technology exists, that kids are using it, that kids are learning in it, and that kids are misusing it too.

Like so many things, the answer lies not in protection, but in education. But that adds to our problems as more and more schools are knee-jerking their way to blocking access and sealing off their schools from the participatory culture that's out there. So we emphasize the good, make little of the bad (see Jeff's ThinkingStick post on this), and get people on board.

So when's a good time to bring in the bad? To have those real conversations with kids? How about ALL THE TIME. Damn...that puts me back at square one...I have to get our teachers to see this as their job. I want to be obsolete as Jeff suggests (well, the job anyway...not me personally), but I don't see that happening any time soon.

That's the key to this Web 2.0 participatory's put power into everyone's hands. And we just haven't prepared everyone for that kind of responsibility.

It's no wonder that there is misuse, just as it is no wonder that some are learning on their own how to behave well and how to protect themselves (great post on this from Justin at Medagogy and teacher directed kids learning based at ThinkingStick).

But we can't rely on self-learning anymore, because it is about more than skills that we can scope and sequence. It's about responsible use as well. It's the job of all educators to make sure that students get that. And teachers will get there, because we can't afford not too...I just hope it's fast enough for our students' sake.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Teens Can Multitask, But What Are Costs?

Teens Can Multitask, But What Are Costs? -

"Call it multitasking homework, Generation 'Net style.

The students who do it say multitasking makes them feel more productive and less stressed. Researchers aren't sure what the long-term impact will be because no studies have probed its effect on teenage development. But some fear that the penchant for flitting from task to task could have serious consequences on young people's ability to focus and develop analytical skills."
We all know the scene: teen managing their MySpace, instant messaging, listening to music, sharing homework, and word processing all at the same time. This article from The Washington Post takes an interesting look at teenager multi-tasking.

The article misleads though when they quote Jordan Grafman, chief of neuroscience at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke as saying,

"Introducing multitasking in younger kids in my opinion can be detrimental," he said. "One of the biggest problems about multitasking is that it's almost impossible to gain a depth of knowledge of any of the tasks you do while you're multitasking. And if it becomes normal to do, you'll likely be satisfied with very surface-level investigation and knowledge."

This quote has NOTHING to do with neurological disorder or stroke, yet by quoting him, the writer offers the impression that this could be a possibility. Is this even ethical? Lots of adults are saying the same can they be focusing? How can they be understanding? What purpose is their in getting this quote from the head of the Stroke Institute unless it is to imply that they think it's bad for teens' health (which they do not as far as I can tell)?

The article goes on to describe a study which indicated that scoring is similar on a card recall activity by those multi-tasking and those not. Interestingly again, it then goes on to offer that the multi-taskers seem to recall less detail.

"imaging showed that different parts of the brain were active depending on whether the subjects did single or multiple tasks. When subjects were focused on sorting, the hippocampus -- the part of the brain responsible for storing and recalling information -- was engaged. But when they were multitasking, that part of the brain was quiet and the part of the brain used to master repetitive skills -- the striatum -- was active."

Was recall part of the activity? Multitasking may shut off certain parts of the brain that are unnecesary, but could it be that good multi-tasking would have allowed for recall, if that were asked of the multi-tasker? Maybe the multi-tasking brain is effective because it can shut off what it doesn't need. I don't know the answer to this, but as I read this article I thought of how often we, digital immigrant, try to force our own hang-ups on digital native multi-taskers.

If students aren't getting to the depth of knowledge like they are "supposed" to, then perhaps that is because we aren't "asking" them to. If they can multi-task and get good grades, as the article suggests, then these students are doing what is being asked of them and doing it well.

Yet we then question the depth of their knowledge?

Is not the depth of their knowledge, dependent on what we ask them to know? And if our questions ask for depth, wouldn't that be an effective gauge for how well they can achieve that depth, while still multi-tasking? Maybe with thought-requiring questions, a student might drop some of those "tasks" and focus on the one...or maybe we'd find that their brains are in fact wired differently than ours and that they can think with depth while chatting with their friends.

Either way, I find it hard to blame the lack of depth in teens' knowledge on their own multi-tasking. No, that blame falls directly on us...their teachers. Let's give them something worth focusing on and then we can worry about how they get there.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Cool Cat Teacher Blog: Teaching wikis to future educators: My virtual presentation at the College of William and Mary

Cool Cat Teacher Blog: Teaching wikis to future educators: My virtual presentation at the College of William and Mary: "Tomorrow I am spending time with Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach's class EDUC 330 Tech Enhanced Learning at the College of William and Mary."

It is great to see that my alma mater is doing some forward thinking here. Made me feel proud that they have a class that focuses on this and that isn't focused on "tech" that is already outdated. The speaker list is terrific with some of the great bloggers I find on my own Netvibes account. Great news. Well done W&M! Go Tribe!

There are some other great gems on this particular post from Vicki. A great couple of videos on wikis and the 21st century teacher. It's worth checking out if you came here first...(though CoolCat's readership is significantly higher than mine, so I am guessing that it'll happen the other way around if at all).

Monday, February 19, 2007

Two great posts

Too much traveling and catching up with my first job lately. Been catching up on my feeds, but not enough time to ponder to sort through my thoughts.

Two great posts though recently that I commented on that I'd like to share though.

1) Dangerously Irrelevant just hit its 6 month birthday. This is incredible to me, since I find Scott's blog has a large reader list. It just goes to show what you can accomplish with meaningful posts and thought-provoking ideas. The post is a particulary good one in that Scott talks about what he reads and how he makes those choices - very useful for a blogger trying to increase his readership to get more conversations going.

In particular, Scott brings a focus on leadership in education which I find refreshing and important. I worry at times, that we (the ed tech bloggers) get caught up in our 2.0's (web, school, student) and we become victims of our own group think. Scott's D.I. blog keeps an eye on the other sides of the arguement. Recently he has also shared other leadership blogs worth keeping an eye on. Only 6 months...incredible.

2) Another frequent read for me is Chris Lehmann's Practical Theory. He recently posted a poignant reminder of how the students that we teach affect us as much as we affect them. Reminded me of some of my own fortune in becoming peer/colleagues with many of the teachers who were inspiring to me as a student. always, another great post from Chris.

Just had dinner with an old friend from those days actually. Hadn't seen her in at least 12 years...and yet we fell back into it. Good people are good people. Common ground is common ground. Doesn't matter how long you don't see them for...those two things keep relationships going. (okay, that's a random aside...but it was nice catching up).

Monday, February 12, 2007

Does "teaching" have such a bad connotation?

Scott McLeod over at Dangerously Irrelevant brought attention to this April 2006 guest posting by Mike Wesch (who just made the incredible Web 2.0 you tube video...see earlier post in this blog). In his guest post on Savage Minds, Mike describes his World Simulation activity. He calls this activity an example of anti-teaching.

"Teaching," he says, "is about providing good information. Anti-teaching is about inspiring good questions."

Reading on in this post, it sounds like a terrific example of students learning and understanding cultures and how they differ and how they thrive (or not) in a globalized world. The activity in fact, seems like a great one and comments by actual students seem to confirm this.

I am struck, however, by his use of terms. Purposely, he refers to this successful activity as an example of anti-teaching. He continues to say that he finds himself anti-teaching more and more in his efforts to have students really learn. Has our opinion of teaching truly come to this? Have we lost all faith in the idea that teachers actually do teach for understanding and that the very questioning that Mike values is in fact the very same questioning that many teachers value? And they call that teaching.

Now I recognize that perhaps it is Mike's intent to inspire us (like Apple) to Think Differently. His very use of this technology may anger some or at least make teachers defensive. But then, reading the comments, I found no such anger. No such indignation. No one saying, "Wait a minute, I do that stuff all the time and I'm a teacher." Perhaps it's Mike's disclaimer that appeases people by saying classrooms need to have both teaching and anti-teaching. Or perhaps the World Simulation was just such a good activity that teachers were able to look past any slights and recognize a chance at a good lesson plan when they saw one.

Or maybe I am just too sensitive.

Recently there have been discussions in other blogs about teacher movies and whether they inspire people to become teachers, or paint the picture of teaching to be too intense and too life changing to be done by any mere mortal, I guess I am sensitive to how we as educators refer to ourselves and our colleagues. Maybe we don't all do it perfectly or even well. But when we do, shouldn't we be calling that "teaching". Doesn't it hurt our own cause to refer to best cases of students truly understanding as the exact opposite of teaching?

I love education. And I really love to see understanding happen around me. If, through something a teacher did/planned/encouraged, students start asking deep questions and demonstrate understanding, then I say we call that TEACHING. Because that's why I think a lot of us got into this gig in the first place.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Changing the world or OUR world?

I was in Chiang Mai, Thailand on a grade 8 four-night trip this week. Just got back and am a little bleary eyed. Chaperoning is tiring work. Also didn't touch a computer in that time which was both refreshing and worrisome.

Anyway, as I biked and hiked around the rural areas, I was struck, as I always am, with the understanding that the Internet and Web 2.0 and all of these other technologies that we talk about so much aren't in everyone's world. It's our world that they influence, but there are a whole lot of people for whom day to day existence and agriculture sustenance are realities. Blogs, wikis and podcasts are not. They are not less happy for it. In fact, some of the happiest people I've met in my life have been in Nepal. People for whom we would describe have nothing, but they would say that have everything they need. Would they like to be wealthier? I am sure that they would, but they don't need it to be happier.

I always liked going to Nepal.

Anyway, thinking about the massive population that does NOT have access, inevitably takes me to wondering about our focus on changing education for a 21st century learner. What about the world's learners who are still mid-20th century at best? We are just widening this gap. But then I am reminded that our world is shaped, not by those farmers and those "without", but rather by those "with". And so, I am encouraged by what we do and our efforts to prepare worldly-wise, critical thinkers who won't just learn the technology and the thinking that we teach them...they will bend it to their will.

And if that widens the gap, then perhaps these same children will be able to figure out a way to preserve (not destroy) and celebrate that world in which "those without" live - something we have not been able to do.

Upon returning from the trip, I got back to my netvibes to find this article among the many I had to catch up on. It reminded me of my "hiking thoughts" and so I've included it here. It reminds me how lucky, by simple fluke of birth, I have been to live without such massive oppression.

Despite a Ban, Chinese Youth Navigate to Internet Cafes - "For those unable to afford their own computers -- the vast majority here -- going online in a clandestine dive has become the only option; the local Communist Party leader banned Internet cafes nine months ago as a bad influence on minors.

'If they dare to reopen, we might launch another campaign to shut them all down again,' proclaimed Zhang Guobiao, party secretary for the surrounding Fangshan County."


Sunday, February 04, 2007

Web 2.0 ... The Machine is Us/ing Us

Web 2.0 explained. Thanks to Thinking Stick for putting me on to this. Mwesch with a very impressive and clear demo/explanation of xml and how we are teaching the machine. Awesome.

Teaching the Machine

Web 2.0…The Machine is Us/ing Us at The Thinking Stick

Over at Thinking Stick, Jeff posted the great video by mwesch in the above post. It also allowed me to work out how to add YouTube to my own blog, which was an added bonus. I've added it above. It is a response to Jeff's own YouTube video explaining Web 2.0. Thanks to Jeff for finding this one and of course, thanks to mwesch for making it and sharing it with us all.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

2 Cents Worth » Take it away! Take it All Away!

2 Cents Worth » Take it away! Take it All Away!: "Then someone asked if the literacy skills that I was talking about were part of anyone’s curriculum. The answer is, “Yes!” My own state, for one, has been teaching and testing computer skills for more than ten years. However, it is a reductionist response to the need for digital literacy (what I call contemporary literacy). We have reduced computer skills out into their own list of standards, separated again into objectives, and performance indicators. We’ve reduced it down to components that can be discretely measured."

In this post David Warlick talks about the typical standards document that all tech people have been involved in creating: the skills document that says when kids will have to learn computer skills like how to use a mouse and later spreadsheets and presentations. And we are all careful to avoid saying "Microsoft" or "Excel" or "PowerPoint" because we are concerned with the skill, not the software itself, but then in the end, our document hold us only to teaching that particular software.

This is a document we've all worked on ... and we've all watched it die.

These documents either intimidate the teachers who are supposed to integrate it into their teaching, or it hides on a shelf in a curriculum office, ready for an accreditation.

But here' s a thought: what if technology was treated as the tool we think it is?

What if our "document" instead required that we focus our attention on thinking skills and 21st century learning - the very ideas that we all seem to celebrate in these blogs?

Let's take the skills out of that document for a second and focus instead on Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe's Essential Questions, from Understanding by Design. By planning student learning using "Backwards Design" (how much longer do we have to call the correct way, "backwards"), we can focus instead on what are the fundamentals of what we believe children need to learn.

School 2.0's essential questions aren't about skills. They aren't about learning spreadsheets or databases or movie making. They are not even about blogging or podcasting or wikis. The essential questions of School 2.0 are about critical thinking and communication and evaluation of resources and information that are everywhere in children's lives.

If we want the ideas of our blogs to be taken seriously by administrators and curriculum planners, then we must approach our planning the same way that all other educators are expected to. By starting with a focus on those essential questions and those enduring understandings. If that's the case, then wouldn't our I.T. document read with questions like, "How do you know something is true?"

Isn't that greater than just a tech question? Isn't that a question that stretches from PreK to 12th grade and beyond? And isn't that a question that all teachers can take ownership of, regardless of their technology skills. We don't need to take "non-tech" options away from teachers, we need to provide them with a context where tech needs to exist. PreK kids will talk about truth and validity in the context that makes sense to them. So will 4th graders. So will seniors.

So how does technology get into this conversation? The answer: when it fits. Now of course, this requires some amount of articulation by educators who know what they are talking about. Librarians and I.T. coordinators and classroom teachers who do have technology skills. For example, when a discussion of truth includes science and proving a theory with experiements and data, then spreadsheets are introduced to demonstrate techniques of data analysis. Technology is the tool here, not the skill.

We blog all the time, that it isn't about the software skills, that's it about something greater. But then we all keep making these technology skill standards documents for grade levels and curriculums. And I don't see anyone using them.

Instead of trying to force our stuff on others with our integrated scopes and sequeneces, why don't we join them? Why don't we frame great questions about thinking and learning and questionning? And then why don't we show kids and teachers how technology can help them do all of these things? It is, after all a tool, right?

So now...what are the essential questions of school 2.0?

Monday, January 29, 2007

What's in a name?

I have just returned from Sunny Sacramento, CA where I was being trained on our school's new Student Information Management System. Looks like it'll be a good product, but there is definitely a right way to implement and get everyone on board both training and thinking-wise. More importantly, there are plenty of wrong ways. We need to do this right...I can tell right now that this is going to be a big time-occupier.

While on the trip, my computer COMPLETELY crashed on me. Wouldn't even start up. So I am behind on posting, behind on keeping up with my netvibes feeds, just behind in general. It did allow me to read a book, which with little children is typically impossible. I am also part way through the audio book of The Long Tail. Fascinating concept, which I have mentioned earlier in this blog. Had a good discussion with Justin about how even retail real-world sellers are really thriving on the niche market and allowing complete customization of products for customers. Starbucks was our example with the "skinny, extra shot, extra hot, soy latte" is a perfect example of how you can be completely niche even when buying in a mainstream environment. It's all about what you want and no longer about what most people want. I think I am going to like living in a world like that.

On a side note, the original purpose of this post was to announce - in a very un-grandiose way - that I've changed the name and URL of this blog. If you are here, you know this. The old name affiliated the blog with the school, which ultimately it was not. They are my thoughts on learning and my thoughts on the musings of others, so I now I've made sure that's clear in the blog title and address.

I am Harter and I am learning. And I have my ideas on learning which give this another meaning. Finally, this new learning, while ultimately beneficial for the students who need us if we can help them, will be difficult for some teachers to move to. Therein lies the other "play" on the name...Harter Learning...because some things worth doing are hard.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Some Thoughts About School 2.0 -- Part 1 - Practical Theory

Some Thoughts About School 2.0 -- Part 1 - Practical Theory: "It's about the pedagogy.

Too much educational software just attempts to turn these really powerful devices into the next version of the workbook. That's criminal...

School 2.0 recognizes that our walls have broken down -- and that's a good thing. Our knowledge, our ideas, our communication is no longer bound by the walls of our school or the hours of our school day.

School 2.0 believes deeply in the old Dewey quote: 'If we teach today's students as we taught yesterday's, we rob them of tomorrow.' "

This post was a terrific summary/introduction to what we need to recognize about the changing face of education that seems to be coming from a group led by Ed. Tech people. What most teachers and administrators are missing is that it is not a "tech-thing" and it's not about the computers. It's about learning and it's about teaching kids in the best way for them to learn.

But also, it's about what they are learning. And we can't keep robbing these kids by teaching them the way that worked for us (and let's not even argue whether it actually did 'work' for us). They need us to recognize that they need more...and they need US.

Let's not let them down.

Haulin’ ‘Net 2006-2007 » Blog Archive » Classic!

Haulin’ ‘Net 2006-2007 » Blog Archive » Classic!
At our school we have senior seminar final presentations that amount to PowerPoint presentations on engaging topics of interest to the students, but not necessarily demonstrating any particular growth. The focus is taken from the concepts of the IB T.O.K. program. It's ideas are worthwhile, but after reading the Haulin' 'Net post, I wonder if our allegiance to the IB as the provider of all great ideas (even for non-IB classes & students) has led us astray here.

In particular, I liked what Carrie Sheehan commented about her senior projects, "The ones who fell short unanimously missed the concept that they had to PERSONALLY experience growth." In that vein, are we falling short? We have plenty of community service opportunities, so it's not that, but I just don't see the ownership or the focus in the senior projects that I read about in this post.

Something for us to think about.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A Long "Tale" of Differentiation

A very smart colleague of mine told me about The Long Tail which he had just read. I am planning on reading it, but just this morning I was thinking to myself what the implications of this commerical idea were on education. The core idea of the book (from what my friend tells me) is that the internet has now created a world in which money is made selling fewer quantities of greater variety. Very different from the old model where limited shelf space dictated that retailers stock whatever is most popular.

Is this not the very core idea of differentiation in the classroom? If successful learning is the "product" we sell then instead of providing a teaching method that "works best for the most people", can we not use technology and other resources to provide "product" for everyone? Differentiated classrooms should have a Long Tail of teaching styles and resources so that no matter how particular or individual the learner, there will be successful learning available to him or her.

I have to think this through more and perhaps this has been thought out before and most certainly, I have to read the book! But The Long Tail idea is very pertinent to education and particularly applicable to differentiation.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

2 Cents Worth » Social Networking Examined

2 Cents Worth » Social Networking Examined: "The principal finding of that study revealed that 55% of online teens use social networks. To some degree, this percentage, though high, seems to contridict society’s notions about teens and their online world.

“There is a widespread notion that every American teenager is using social networks, and that they’re plastering personal information over their profiles for anyone and everyone to read,” says Amanda Lenhart. “These findings add nuance to that story – not every teenager is using a social networking website, and of those that do, more than half of them have in some way restricted access to their profile.”(”55% of online teens”)

Findings of the study indicate that 66% of social networking teens have their profiles blocked from view by anyone but their friends."

So should we be scared? Maybe the numbers are not as bad as media makes them out to be. Warlick goes on to ask the more profound question though: "what should we be doing to embrace that 55% number?" After all what other activity do you know of that 55% of the population do? Not sports, not painting, not chess. His point is a good one...55% may be less than we thought, but 55% is a lot more than anything else.

How do we make it meaningful and educational? Can social networking be used as a learning environment? We are hoping to answer that with the creation of an e-learning community at our school in which teachers and students will interact with their students on course matter. Not that revolutionary, but at the same time we want to provide RSS and other features that allow for some customizability and some pursuit of personal interests - without turning it into a MySpace clutterfest (though our visually-literate students don't seem to mind).

Steve Hargadon: "Aha!" Moment on Adoption of Web 2.0 in the Classroom?

Steve Hargadon: "Aha!" Moment on Adoption of Web 2.0 in the Classroom?: "The light bulb went off for me. There is no way that teachers are going to be able to bring this technology into the classroom without support from the administration. So, the key would be to help the administrators experience the personal educational benefits from the read/write web technologies. And how would you do that? Maybe not providing them with just more information on the benefits of the read/write web, but actually providing them with some kind of training that actually helps them use these technologies in their jobs. They then would experience what happens, and can either promote or be more supportive of these technologies."

Steve speaks of what it will take for technology to really be embraced and used in schools. He finishes the article with a little downside pessimism, but is he on to something here? Our administration is hoping that this is the case. Training the leadership team in not only what technologies are out there and can be used but also on what kind of teacher to recruit that will embrace these technologies are powerful forces that our Leadership Team supports. We are lucky that way, but Steve's idea here can be the way to increased support and increased use by teachers. Ultimately, the leaders of a school set tone. This type of knowledge and understanding would definitely set the tone for technology use as well.