Monday, March 31, 2008

Who Made You Think Today?

It's become my nightly ritual to open my laptop, log in to my Bloglines account and read through the new postings for the day. Sometimes, I even sneak a look during a few minutes break at work. And, I believe I'm addicted because it sure is hard not to see what's going on every day.

It's not just that I want to see if anything at all new is posted. It's that I'm looking for new thinking all the time, new ways of looking at the issues that I deal with, new ways of approaching common themes that come up about technology and instruction. Sometimes, I store what I find in my brain's memory, sometimes I use my Diigo account to bookmark what I've found with a note to help me remember my thinking later. Other times, I comment on a blog or I send a link to that blog posting on to someone else who I know will enjoy the reading.

So...who made me think today? Well, it started with Miguel Guhlin who wrote in reaction to Ryan Bretag's article on the Techlearning blog. Here's what I'm thinking...

Yes! I can raise my hand. I spend time every day trying to enhance my professional practice, trying to learn something new. Does this take place in "a collaborative context with other professionals?" If you count reading the blog, commenting, or posting my own reaction on my blog then...yes! I can raise my other hand. But, I wish I were raising that other hand because those "other professionals" were the colleagues with whom I work each day. This is not always the case and it's where I struggle each day on the job.

Maybe instead of holding on to what I've learned or passing on those links to only a few people, I should instead borrow a little wisdom from Ryan's action items. So, here's what that might look like:

1. Dedicate a portion of each day to send out messages to teachers about what's going on in the web 2.0 world. Providing little tidbits of what's out there and what I've learned from my own involvement in my personal learning network might inspire more of my colleagues to ask questions and begin to raise their awareness of the possibilities that exist.

2. Encourage others to establish a professional learning network. By following step #1, this is possible. By helping teachers to connect to the best resources this is possible.

3. Establish and maintain a virtual professional learning space that fosters shared knowledge and resources. Just creating another blog space to feature what others are writing about or to point to good examples of what teachers are doing with web 2.0 tools could help to establish that space in the professional learning practices of others. Last week, I spent some time with a small group of teachers who learned a little bit about Diigo, Google Docs, and wikis. That was just a quick introduction. The professional learning space can be the follow up to that conversation and many others.

4. Make professional reflection and scholarly work a priority and make it public. We already have some instances of teachers using wikis (mostly in collaboration with their library media specialists) and we have some teachers who have started blogs with their students. Through our professional learning space teachers could engage in conversations about the use of these tools for instruction.

5. Model professional learning for colleagues. There are about 125 teachers with whom I can share what I've been exploring and learning about. Time to get busy and open the doors to a learning network!

Thanks to Miguel for pointing to Ryan's article and thanks to Ryan for making some very bold statements that we should all take to heart.

The more it's used, the more it grows

"More than any other commodity, information is everywhere. Not only can almost anyone access almost anything at almost no cost, but, unlike corn and wheat, information doesn’t have to be consumed to be used. Quite the opposite: The more it’s used, the more it grows."

Think Better by Tim Hurson ©2008

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Using Technology in Teaching is an Act of Declarative Knowledge

Over the past few years, we've been learning a lot in my district about procedural and declarative knowledge. Do a Google search for these terms and you'll find more information about them. Basically, procedural knowledge is a set of steps in a process. We learn the steps, we practice the steps, we apply them in new situations. In terms of technology training, my main role in my district, I've recognized for a long time that this is how we learn to use computers. We learn where to click and when to make certain things happen. And, once we know the steps about where to click to make certain things happen, we can apply that to other technology tools. But, I've also recognized that, to follow steps and to act as if the procedural knowledge is all we need, pretty much defeats the purpose of using technology as a learning tool.

Declarative knowledge, on the other hand, is facts, generalizations and principles. We need to process declarative knowledge. That's what I'm doing right now. I've been reading through several blog posts this afternoon and now, by writing this post, I'm processing the information that I've read. So, as we process declarative knowledge, we can do that in a number of ways. As mentioned, we can write about it. Blogs and other online tools that allow others to create conversations around what we're thinking about our learning are important in declarative knowledge. So, we gather the information, we process the information in a variety of ways and then we construct a new idea - think Bloom's taxonomy.

This is, I think, where professional development for technology needs to reside. We've spent lots of time and effort in teaching the steps. Now, we need to teach the concept of technology in the teaching and learning process. If educators have the declarative knowledge, the means to process that knowledge and apply a thinking skill so that they can begin to construct new ideas about the use of technology, then I think we will have moved forward in a positive direction.

This blog posting was influenced by several things that I've read this afternoon, some of which are linked below. While you, the reader, may not see all the connections that I've found that's all right. The connections come not only from the reading, but from the background knowledge that I already have in regards to this concept. This is declarative knowledge in action.

Developmentally appropriate technology integration PD - Wes Fryer
Internalization vs. Utilization - Scott Weidig
"If the news is important, it will find me." - Mathew Ingram

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

It's Because I Read...

This morning before I went to work I logged into my Bloglines account for a quick check. The first blog posting I read was from Brian Crosby. Today, he was writing about a project that he'll be doing with his 5th graders in collaboration with Lisa Parisi. As I read through the post, I was struck by the number of technology tools that will be employed in the course of this project and how well they fit together to support the intended learning. The project will allow students to collaborate to write original stories based on the illustrations in the book The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg. Not being familiar with the book, I went right to one of my super-duper librarians this morning to borrow it.

As soon as I read that post, the contents of a workshop that I'll do tomorrow suddenly crystallized. This workshop will be with a group of teachers that I've been working all year. They wanted to take another look at some of the web based tools that I've been talking about all this year. But I've been struggling with how to present these in some sort of meaningful context. That is, until I read Brian's blog this morning. And, it's because I read that this kind of thing often happens to me.

Tomorrow, we'll start by going to Diigo where I've already set up an account and bookmarked Brian's post. This will get us quickly to that post which I'll have the teachers read. [We'll talk about connections that this project might have to our own curriculum. I'd like them to also take a look at the NETS for students - this will expose them to a document that many of them might not have known about otherwise.] Now that we've gotten to the blog, we can learn how to annotate it using the Diigo toolbar.

Next up is Google docs. Brian and Lisa are going to use this tool as a way for their students to write collaboratively. We'll use it to respond to some questions that I've set up that are related to each of the tools we'll work with.

Then it's on to the concept of the wiki. By way of introducing this concept, I have Wikis in Plain English ready to show. Then we can go to Lisa's wiki page which will serve as one example. There are other samples that I've been collecting as well for us to explore. This will give us some food for thought about how wikis can be used effectively in instruction. We'll return to Google docs to record our impressions.

By exploring these tools within the context of this project, I hope that the teachers will be able to see the connections among these tools, and the value they add to learning. I also hope this will provoke some additional conversations about exploring the use of these tools further.

It's because I read that I learn from others and that I'm inspired by others. I can't imagine how I could do my job without access to the ideas and experiences of talented educators around the world. Thanks to all of you!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Collaborate or Perish

After having read Miguel Guhlin's account of the student who is being charged with academic misconduct, then another article online, as well as a lengthy IM conversation with my daughter this assignment occurs to me:

Students: here is [the assignment] for your homework and it's due by Friday. Here are the expectations...
1. You must arrive at a well thought out conclusion - all answers, if well documented, will be accepted.
2. You must work in collaboration with at least 5 other members of the class. Two of those must be someone you don't regularly work with. Real learning is a social process. So...get out there and learn from and with each other.
3. Record your reflections on the collaboration and the tools you used as well as how you arrive at your conclusion.
4. All of these are required in order for the assignment to be accepted. Good luck!