Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The I-4 concept

We've been thinking about the connection between instructional strategies and technology tools. Let's turn that around a little bit...

We started with the premise that technology is used basically for four reasons: information, images, interaction and inquiry. We listed all the different ways that technology fits into each of those categories. That was a good start.

But, now we have a little more information based on our own separate investigations, readings and experiences. Tonight the thought is that we need to begin to think about how the technologies we've categorized are/can be used to support student learning. So now, instead of listing the technologies we need to look at how teachers can apply the technologies to what we know about how students learn and what learning skills they need for their future. [personal learning tools]

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

New Concept

Here's a new concept, taken again from the writings of David Warlick. He uses the term "personal learning network" in reference to the connections and learning that are accomplished when you use the web for your own personal learning through the use of technologies such as blogs.

But, I got to thinking about the potential of developing a personal learning network, not just for me, but for our students as well. Only 10 years ago, my personal learning network probably only consisted of my grade level colleagues, members of courses I was taking for my Master's degree and any professional literature I was reading at the time. Now, my personal learning network is populated by professional literature in print as well as on the web, the blogs I read, email that I get from other people, my immediate co-workers, the teachers I work with each day, Janie Pollock [of course!] and my administrative acquaintances. My personal learning network is the people and resources that I can learn from. It should be fluid and changing with the kinds of information that I'm interested in. All of the pieces of my personal learning network do not work together but interact as needed and some of those pieces will drop off in time. For instance, in my quest to learn more about blogs, I began by reading David Warlick's blog. On his "2 Cents Worth" he lists other blogs that he interacts with and that interact with him. I used those links to learn more about blogs but they all took me another step further into other areas of technology of which I was unaware. From some of those blogs, I learned a lot and I continue to read the ones that intrigue me and that provide me with additional professional support. From others, I check in once in a while but, since they no longer contain any new information that I'm looking for, they have been all but eliminated from my personal learning network.

I really like this concept for our students as well. As teachers, we tend to build learning networks for our students don't we? In some of our classrooms, the learning network consists of the textbook, the other students in the room and the teacher. That's pretty limited in relation to the resources and information that are available within a few clicks of the mouse. What can we as teachers do to help our students develop the skills necessary to create their own learning networks?

21st Century Classrooms

It's the 21st century and we need to provide 21st century tools to our 21st century learners who will grow up to be 21st century workers in a 21st century world.

Kids still need to know how to hold a pencil and write a sentence, draw with crayons, and cut with scissors. But our 21st century tools are what they'll be using when they grow up so how can we find a balance here?

I was looking at some sites where teachers are participating in collaborative projects. They show examples of student work, pictures of students at work on their projects and so on. But, the student work was hand written, hand drawn and scanned to be placed on the website and the pictures show students using crayons and pencils to create their projects. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that!

But some would say...maybe these students don't have the access to technology that they need, maybe their teacher doesn't have the technology skills even with access. And others might say...If taxpayers buy thousands of dollars worth of textbooks, what do they expect to see teachers doing with those textbooks? And, if taxpayers buy thousand of dollars worth of computers and related equipment, what should they expect to see teachers doing with that equipment?

No easy answers here...just thinking!

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Technology Vision

Here are some links to blog articles that have really gotten me thinking about our concept of technology use in classrooms.

Technology for Its Own Sake - David Warlick's Two Cents

It's About Information, Not Technology - a blog from the Shanghai American School

Technology Phrases That Need to Go Away - John Pederson

In a different blog (that I couldn't find right now) David Warlick also talks about putting aside our thoughts that we can integrate technology into the curriculum and start thinking about integrating the curriculum into the technology.

Here's a quote from the blog article linked above.[the emphasis in the quote is my editing]
"They did not achieve a successful integration of e-mail into the teaching and learning process by teaching students to use e-mail. They achieved it by integrating a need for the communication that can best be achieved with electronic mail. The focus was on communication, on the information skills, not on the technology skills."

So...from that statement then it appears that he's saying that we need to identify the needs and then identify the best ways to achieve fulfilling those needs. Hmm...seems logical and simple, so I'll try this out.

• If we have the need to communicate, it can be best achieved through the use of email.

• If we have the need to organize ideas, it can be best achieved through the use of Inspiration or Kidspiration.

• If we have the need to locate information, in elementary classrooms it can be best achieved by using Yahooligans or Kidsclick but in middle and high school classes it can be best achieved by using Google or other more sophisticated search engines.

• If we have the need to take that information and reduce it down to its most important points or keywords, it can best be achieve if we copy and paste it into a word processor so that we can eliminate extraneous information and keep just the most important stuff. Simply and efficiently.

• If we have the need to improve writing skills then our students need to write. Improvement can be best achieved by giving students opportunities to use as many writing tools as possible and to write for as many different purposes as possible. Those needs can be best achieved through the use of tools like KidPix that, for our younger students, can combine the use of pictures with text. Or, if we want students to really understand communication, of which writing is a part, then we need to give them opportunities to write for response from others. This might be accomplished through the use of a blog.

•If we have the need to have students working collaboratively on projects, we can best achieve this if we provide them with a wiki which allows anytime, anywhere access to the information being consumed or produced by the group of students. This way, they're not confined to access to the school network or to a network shared folder. Wikis provide a collaborative environment where all of its users have a voice, the right to contribute and the right to edit.

•If we have the need to improve reading skills then we need to give our students opportunities to read on their own, listen to good models of reading, or read aloud to others. The best way to achieve this is to give students access to lots of reading materials that are appropriate for their skill level.(Teachers can access a variety of these leveled materials at Reading A-Z) Students can listen to good models of reading through the use of or any number of other online story sites. We can achieve reading aloud by giving students time to read to each other OR we could provide them with recording devices that allow them to play back their reading so that they can hear and get feedback/reflect on their performance. Your computer is actually a recording device given the right pieces of software to do so and many of these are open source and easy to use.

I could go on and on but just think about the simplicity of this one way of looking at bringing the curriculum into the technology. I'm continuing this little quest offline as I write this and have created a table in Word with two columns. One labeled "If" and the other labeled "Then". Because...IF I need to organize all my thoughts about this topic, THEN this can best be achieved if I create a two column table showing me those relationships. Gotta love technology! :)

Thursday, June 22, 2006


I was just reading two things: one, a blog discussing the fact that, during the tsunami a couple of years ago, there were no "official" news reporters on the scene. All of the video and still photos actually came from ordinary citizens, and tourists - news corporation could not operate in "traditional" fashion and had to rely on images not produced by their own reporters in order to get their stories out. The other was an article about an organization called iCommons that "aims to establish a global commons – a worldwide system that allows people to use the internet to collaborate and access knowledge without the restraints of traditional copyright law." For some reason, the phrase "traditional copyright law" got me thinking about the one word: "traditional". With the technology tools that we have to produce, remix and reinvent any type of content whether audio, visual or text based our "traditional copyright" laws no longer serve us well and we're struggling with traditional vs creative.

In education, we certainly do cling to our traditional ways of doing things - traditional routines, traditional pedagogy, traditional scheduling. If we did something one way before and it worked, then it certainly will work again. More and more I hear conversations among teachers about students ("I've had a tough class this year") and how students have changed yet we haven't acknowledged all of the factors driving these changes. We "think" it might be all the testing...we "think" it might be that the kids go home to dysfunctional families...we "think" kids don't "listen" anymore. I went to a conference about 6 years ago where the presenter pointed out that, in the first five years of their lives, children live in an interactive world but when they get to school, that interaction stops and students are placed in desks, told to do their own work and don't talk to each other while the teacher is instructing. Students also live in a world of creativity, innovation, and collaboration they we haven't yet been able to wrap our heads around in education. I'm not saying I have any solutions, these are just a few reflections and since I've made it my mission to write once a day on this blog - there it is! My own 2 cents... just because! :)'s going to be 3's an article about homeless people and their access to technology.,71153-0.html

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Interesting to think about....

I was just reading back through some writing from David Warlick's blog. Below is some text from his blog where he is answering the question: what exactly should teachers be doing [faced with the challenges of teaching students in the digital age]?
**The bolded text is my editing of the parts that stand out for me.

What should the classroom teacher be doing now?

* First of all, they should join the conversation, just like Cheryl says. They should start paying very close attention to the world they are teaching our children about and then start talking about it. They should start blogging and reading blogs. I could never adequately describe the learning curve I have ridden over the past 12 months since starting to read blogs, and to participate in the conversation.

* Teachers must start looking for, and inventing, new stories. To much of what we do in our classrooms, curriculum meetings, standards committees, and board rooms, are based on old and outdated stories. Find the new stories and start telling the heck out of them to everyone, at every opportunity.
* Start coming at things sideways.
* We’re still teaching like it’s all our children will ever need to learn. We need to start helping students learn to teach themselves.
* We’re coming out of an age of occupational security. So what’s the upside of less security? More opportunity. What do kids need to know to leverage and even create opportunity.
* Second think literacy. What are the basic skills when information is increasingly networked, digital, and overwhelming, and what are the pencil and paper in that information environment.
* Stop talking about integrating technology into the curriculum, and start talking about integrating the curriculum into an information-driven, technology-rich, rapidly changing world.
* Find and craft new stories and tell them. To your class…”I read yesterday that at any given moment 2% of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) is in the back of a UPS truck. What do you think we, in our community, put on those trucks — or what do you think we might put on those trucks in the future?”

To the public…”At some point, sooner than we believe, virtually all practical day to day information will be available digitally and through a network, and almost exclusively through digital technology. Anyone without convenient (at hand) access to a networked, digital device and the skills to use that device, may as well not know how to read. We’ve decided how important it is to learn to ready. How about the tech part?”

We need to be inventing new stories, sharing them, and telling them ALL THE TIME.

"New" vocabulary for the 21st century

Today, as I'm reading some of my newly favorite blogs on the web, I'm thinking about all the new vocabulary that I've learned over the past few weeks. Here's a list of just a few of the terms I've read repeatedly. I suspect I'll be adding to this list as I go along:

rss feeds
transformative tools
social networks
read/write web
web 2.0
personal learning spaces
collective knowledge spaces
digital storytelling
digital natives

So our vocabulary has changed quite a bit over the past ten or so years hasn't it? We know what the research says about the need for students to have an understanding of vocabulary in order to be successful in their learning, in making connections to new learning. A learner is a learner is a learner...So what about teachers? Do they need to understand these words in order to understand what's going on with our kids outside of the classroom? If we want to help them connect to new information about the use of technology in instruction we probably need to start by helping them understand the language we use when we discuss this topic.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Information and Interaction

I've often thought about the fact that we use technology to both consume and produce information but, for some reason, I've thought about it as two separate processes. As an example, I've thought about consuming information as in looking for sources on the web such as news sites, classroom related sites, etc. Producing information has seemed to me to be about creating one's own website.

So now, I'm feeling WAY behind the times in this thinking but here it is...Blogs and Wikis provide us with the opportunity to be consumers and producers of information all at the same time. As a blogger, I'm producing information right now and someone will, hopefully, be consuming this information and then, in their response, will be actually producing further information that I can then consume and respond to again. In creating wikis, our intent is to collaboratively work with information but again, we are both consumers and producers at the same time.

How does this apply to classroom instruction? If we really pay attention to these two tools - blogs and wikis - we have unlimited potential for giving our students access to real life applications for the literacy skills that we begin teaching them from the time they walk in the door. (and those literacy skills apply even when it's not "reading time". ) When I first became a teacher, we helped kids understand the writing process. When they "published" their work, where did it go? Maybe they read it to the class, or we put a nice cover on it and placed it in the classroom library or they took it home and proudly showed Mom and Dad what they had worked on. Today, with a few clicks of the mouse, we can publish our writings, our ideas, our insights to a medium that can be viewed around the world and to a medium where others can readily respond and collaborate in building ideas together. If that isn't exciting, I don't know what is!

Sunday, June 11, 2006


When we first began to talk about the I-4, we began to put certain technology tools under the 4 categories. Initially, we thought about tools such as cell phones, email, and instant messenger when we talked about technology for interaction. We also gave some thought to the interactive nature of some pieces of software. But even more interactive are some of the newer technologies such as blogs and wikis. I've been spending a lot of time lately reading everything I can find about each of these. I've found blogs where discussions are going on about the pedagogy of using blogs and I've found resources that explain a little bit about blogs for those of us who are just beginning to learn about them. Blogs are just another aspect of interaction among many as opposed to the others named above where the interaction tends to mostly be between only two people.

Wikis are really interesting to me. These are a forum for the shared construction of knowledge. Talk about interaction! If I began a wiki about interaction, others could join in developing that concept with me. We could post ideas and content, revise each other's work and add more to the content.

Two interesting blogs about blogging:
Shaping Pedagogy Through Blogging

Pedagogical Underpinnings of Blogs in the Classroom

Reading All Weekend

This was an interesting weekend. I had decided at some point, that I was going to read David Warlick's 2¢ Worth blog. I find his ideas interesting and he seems to be thinking about the same stuff that we've been considering in terms of the ways that technology is used in classrooms. I had briefly seen him use the term "flat classroom" in one of his posts and, since I'm currently reading "The World is Flat" I wanted to see the roots of his use of the term. So I began to read his blog from the beginning which was November 2004...that was where I started on Friday night and I've been reading ever since, every chance I get. Since beginning to read his blog I have probably visited over 100 websites that were referred to, was introduced to the names and writings of a number of people who are thinking about technology use in schools and have written down the website addresses of a number of tools that have been referred to in reference to "Web 2.0" or the dynamic/collaborative web.

What I've come to learn is that I need to know more about blogs and blogging, more about wikis, more about RSS and podcasting/videocasting...more about more!

I've been struggling lately with the feeling as well as the fact that technology training per se has been more or less absent from my job duties over the past two years. Yet...over the past two years I've been involved in developing more ideas about technology use beyond just the pure knowledge of software tools. The problem is having a method of sharing this, supporting its use in the classroom beyond the 2 times per year professional development day. Those PDC days are drop and run days and we don't yet have a good mechanism for following up those discussions, that type of instruction. I'm looking for opportunities to be as much a learner in this as I'd like my fellow teachers to be.

My intention with this blog is to write. To write about what I'm learning and to write about my feelings, to get feedback from others, to collaboratively develop the ideas and thoughts we're working on and to see just where we can go with all of this.