Friday, February 23, 2007

Updated Technology Standards - Create custom imagesGreater minds than mine have already begun to deal with the update to the ISTE technology standards but I wanted to process this new information in a way that makes sense to me.

A little background first: my state's technology standards don't even come close to being usable in my opinion and so, for the past 8 years,whenever we talked in my district about technology standards, I always referred to those published by ISTE. The problem, of course, becomes that, as time went by and we gained access to a web based more and more on communication and collaboration, these standards became less and less relevant. So, this morning, I located this new draft and began to think about how it's changed and how that will benefit those of us who might use this document as a reference in conversations with both teachers and administrators.

So...a little comparison is in order~

Verbs used

Old NETS: Words and phrases such as "students use..." and "tools" are prominent implying a focus on learning (possibly) isolated skills

New NETS: The language is related to higher level thinking. Words such as apply, develop, evaluate, transfer are used implying that technology is used beyond just merely learning isolated skills.


Old NETS: Mostly focused on learning skills to operate tools.

New NETS: Mostly focused on technology as a tool for learning. Brings in work place skills for the 21st century.

Introductory Statement

Old NETS: Refers to the teacher using the document for planning "technology based activities."

New NETS: Refers to the student and what he/she needs to know and be able to do "to learn effectively and live productively in an increasingly digital world..."

Bloom's Levels (revised version)

Old NETS: Lowest levels: remembering, understanding, applying

New NETS: Higher levels of thinking, analyzing, evaluating, creating.

Standards Titles

1. Basic operations and concepts
2. Social, ethical, and human issues
3. Technology productivity tools
4. Technology communication tools
5. Technology research tools
6. Technology problem-solving and decision-making tools

1. Creating and Innovation
2. Communication and Collaboration
3. Research and Information Retrieval
4. Critical Thinking, Problem-Solving and Decision-Making
5. Digital Citizenship
6. Technology Operations and Concepts

Although I'm just beginning to process these new standards, overall they seem to be a much better indicator of how technology supports learning than the previous document. This is finally a document that I can point teachers to that is more than "one more thing" they have to do in the classroom. It is simply what our students need to know and be able to do in order to survive in a digital world.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Kids, Books and Technology

Matt Callison in California has created a great site called BookLook. On this site, students are reviewing books in the same style that some of us may remember from Reading Rainbow. His site is well designed and is a wonderful example of what kids can do with technology for the "real world." I'm sure these students used lots of 21st century literacy skills in order to produce these podcasts. Have a look at further information about this site at Progressive Educator.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Pre-Exposure from the Beginning

As an instructional technology specialist, I'm trying to figure out how instruction works best in the classroom given the students needs and the tools that are currently available to support instruction. Improving student learning and improving my pedagogy are always my goals whether we're using technology or not. The ideas I'm working through tonight are still in progress - just trying to think through the pedagogy, the tools and the application to a classroom situation. So...let's pretend this is a 5th grade classroom for example. Then, let's add to that some of the circumstances under which teachers can/do operate in my district.

There are 6 computers, a printer and an LCD projector in my classroom and I have access to a wireless laptop cart with 15 computers. There are a number of digital cameras in the building as well.

We begin our day with pre-exposure to the plans for learning for the day. Information access is important to our continued learning so the plans for the day have been outlined on our class start page and are projected onto a screen in the classroom as the students walk in. Students know that this is their first stop once they've taken care of their coats.

So what? Can't we do the same thing with notes on the board? Yes! But this serves as an ever present model for how we can organize and manage information and can be accessed by students at home. Tabs can be added to further organize any content. Under each tab we can add widgets as needed for quick access to RSS feeds, podcasts, or websites specific to what we're studying.

One student each day checks the start page where the current temperature is displayed and uses Excel to track the temperature and weather conditions. The temperatures for the week are converted to a bar graph which is saved throughout the year. These bar graphs are used for a number of math skills such as computing the weekly average and then monthly average. The bar graphs are saved so that we can use them to look at the trends in temperature across seasons which contributes to our learning in science when we talk about the earth's atmosphere and how various types of weather occur. Links under the Science tab take students to websites related to weather such as the Weather Channel, Weather Underground, a local TV station's site and other supporting information.

The other 5 computers are assigned to particular students each day and they can use them to check our RSS feeds to places such as the local news, Word of the Day or National Geographic. They can also explore the other tabs on our start page for specific content areas to see what webpages are currently being displayed or to further preview learning for the day such as this picture of the character web that will be done during our reading time today.

Additonal options for class start pages include:

Pulling Together the Big Picture

It’s my nature to be able to develop a “big picture” in my mind of anything whether it be the concepts behind the curriculum work done in my district or planning for things at home.

And so, as I think about all the issues that I’ve read about through blogs (and other sources) during the past year, I have this “big picture” in my mind about what technology use in a classroom should look like. Sometimes, it’s just difficult to bring all the words together in such a way that I can explain it. But, I’m going to give it a shot starting right now – have to start pulling all of this together in my mind. It’ll help me to get it all written down then look back at it and reflect some more.

The issues… (well…some of them anyway!)
• how to leverage web 2.0 tools for instruction without just doing the same old stuff with new tools
• attention to pedagogy or the tools – which comes first
• changes that need to happen in the classroom to accommodate the kinds of tools we now have
• changes in our students – they have access to information anytime, anywhere but aren’t experiencing the freedom to use “their” tools in school
• preparing students for a future we can’t predict

OK…I’m definitely not a researcher nor do I even begin to imagine that I have the answers to any of these issues but I love wrestling with them anyway. What keeps coming up to me time and again are some of the things my school district has been working on and discussing over the past 4 years. I’ve done little in the way of “technology training” in that time – not like I had previous to this. What I have done is to spend a lot of time working with our curriculum consultant, talking with teachers about their frustrations, suggesting small ways to keep advancing their uses of technology in support of curriculum, and, more recently, being involved in data analysis to see what issues are coming up as a result of state testing. In addition, I’ve been reading anything I can get my hands on about brain research, instructional strategies, assessment, grading, and the kinds of changes going on in the world around us.

One thing doesn’t change though - The single most important influence on student learning is the teacher. From that, what flows naturally to me is that the teacher must have a good set of instructional strategies that he/she can readily apply and must understand how students learn and under what conditions they learn best. The pedagogy will always reign supreme no matter what the “tools” are and no matter how they change and evolve.

Next time…beginning to delve into Eric Jensen’s framework for planning with the brain in mind. Yes! We have the research and we have the tools!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Beginning with the learner...

Brian Crosby reflects in his blog on the work of his classroom where he has access to laptops and a multitude of other technology tools including web 2.0 tools. Once again, my mind is back to Eric Jensen's point in his book, Brain Based Learning that we learn best by immersion - and then thinking our way out. I enjoy the transparency of Brian's writing about his classroom and the learning process that he is going through right along with his students.

Jensen's point that brain based learning begins with the learner not the content is especially relevant as we continue to wrestle with schooling in the 21st century as well as with how web 2.0 tools can be used instructionally in ways that are not just taking the old and transposing it on top of something new. What tools does the learner need when immersed in content in order to think his/her way out? What thinking skills provide the best way out of the immersion of content? Jensen outlines 7 stages in brain based planning. As I look through each stage, my mind immediately connects with the web 2.0 tools that would support brain based learning and with the learning I've experienced in working with our curriculum consultant over the past 4 years.

So...I think I'm going to make that my challenge for the next few postings. If you happen upon any ideas that you'd like to expand on, please leave a comment. I love finding connections and being immersed in learning and I'd love some feedback to keep me thinking and reflecting.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Empowered Kids Making a Difference

In our newspaper this morning, there was a story about a young man who created his own website. This young man, only 18 years old, decided to create this website because he has celiac disease. This made it necessary for him to cut from his diet anything with wheat, barley and malt products. Since he's also vegetarian, this presented unique challenges. So he thought that a site that catered to vegetarians and vegans with celiac disease was something that was needed. He recognized a need, then identified a way to address that need - and for this, he is to be commended.

The site,, serves as a spot for people to share recipes and discuss other issues involved in living with celiac disease. It's a very professional looking site of which this young man should be very proud. Check it out and see for yourself.

Sunday, February 11, 2007


If you've been watching the Weather Channel or CNN (or checking Google news this past week, you've probably seen the view from anywhere within 20 miles of where I live. While we expect snow in the winter, it's been late in coming and now that it has come, it just won't stop. A full week of lake effect snow is unusual even for us. Anyway, it's given me time to keep up with blogs and such, learn a few things about a new digital camera that I have and work with a site I found to do some new things with the pictures I've taken. Here's one example from Scrapblog. It's a little quirky to work with but makes some nice scrapbook-like pages. This would be another nice tool to give even upper elementary kids for digital storytelling. I was going to embed it, but it needs to be bigger than can be displayed here. Instead, here's a link to my scrapblog about winter in Central New York.

Some other sites for working with digital pictures that do a really nice job are:

Friday, February 09, 2007

Teaching to the Test? Not!

Spent the day listening to some teachers go through the data analysis process regarding our state ELA assessment and have gone through this process with a number of teachers and grade levels. It's commonly said that we're teaching to the test. I used to think that way too. For many teachers, this test absolutely consumes their time and attention from the first day of school until the test is over at last. The teachers feel enormous amounts of pressure for students to perform since the scores on these tests will eventually be publicly announced.

We've been looking at the kinds of reading passages that are presented, the kinds of questions that are asked, the skills needed to answer the questions, the strategies that we use to teach those skills and where those skills are found in our curriculum. And, I've heard it said that the questions are "bad", "unfair", and "too hard" or "The kids just can't do it." Is that really the case or is our pedagogy just not up to the task? I've begun to change my mind about just what this test is showing us. I believe it's showing us where our pedagogical practices are in need of examining.

The future that our students are moving toward is not the future that many of us were prepared for in our own schooling and the teaching role models that most of us had were models who received their own education in a very different time. Our instructional practices should not be the same practices that were used in the classrooms that we attended.

We don't need to teach to the test and we never did. Instead, we need to teach in a way that will help our students develop the skills needed to sustain and deepen learning. This will take examining our instructional practices and measuring just how well they stand up to the challenges of learning in the 21st century. There are many pieces to this puzzle that we must all put together but who better to work for than for the future of our students?

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Improving Learning with Zoho Tools

I've been going back to the tools at Zoho since last summer when I first found it. I was inspired to go back and do a little more investigating after seeing Will Richardson's post this morning on the new Zoho Notebook. Unfortunately, it's not yet available but a quick email to them let me know that they plan a public beta for March. If you're a classroom teacher, you should really take a look at it - the possibilities are endless!

As an instructional technology specialist working with elementary teachers, we've developed a number of content area related applications to technology over the years. One of them, keeping a daily temperature chart, supports our math program and helps our younger students learn about interpreting data from graphs. We've used Excel, the Graph Club and AppleWorks as different tools for creating these graphs. One of the Zoho tools is a spreadsheet which works just like Excel or any other spreadsheet/graphing program to create graphs from the numerical data collected. These graphs can then be published and made public by embedding them into a webpage or blog such as the one below.

Daily Temperatures for Week of Feb. 5, 2007 -

If our students can create such graphs online using any numerical data, then publish it to a webpage/blog, how would that benefit them instructionally? How would it benefit their math skills, their writing skills, their 21st century literacy skills? Even our youngest students could write about sentences to tell about the high and low temperatures for the week or the differences between the high and low. After gathering several of these graphs, students could begin to explain what was happening with changes in temperature over time, what patterns they were observing relative to the time of year/seasons. Older students creating graphs to compare the number of immigrants from particular European countries in the early 1900's, could then explain what they learned about the reasons that some countries show higher levels of immigration than others. Interpreting data is an important skill that students use to think more critically about this type of information. What else could we do with such applications that only require an Internet connection to allow us to create content that is useful for learning?