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.