Saturday, March 29, 2008

Earth Hour 2008

We started a new family tradition today. My daughters and I decided to spend Earth Hour sharing stories by candlelight. I wish we could do it every week. But, committing to once a year works for me. We were excited to spend time together participating in something that was bigger than us. It made us feel that we were part of the world community. My youngest daughter read from her little pony book. My middle daughter told us about reading Matilda books and how fun they were. My oldest daughter was interested in knowing about my childhood stories. I shared about growing up with my cousins. I talked about growing up in a huge house and sharing my summers of lemonade and snow cones. I then read Flat Stanley. I was familiar with the story but never had actually read it. My daughters had all read it and were excited to have me read it outloud to them. Well before we knew it the 60 minutes were over! We took some pictures and uploaded them to the Earth Hour Flickr Pool.

This past week my students and I also produced a video project for Earth Day 2008. We are participating in a competition for our district technology conference. It was exciting to get some technology into my classroom. I especially liked how my students were able to express their creativity in the script they wrote for the presentation. I even found a pretty cool youtube video on The 3R's (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) by Jack Johnson.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Websense - In Support of Al Upton

It is difficult to appreciate what you have sometimes. This is my second year back in the classroom. Last year I got a late start with my classroom blog, Room36. I was able to get a few things done even though I was still dealing with learning the curriculum and my class management skills. This school year I've had an even slower start. I signed up for a classroom blog with class blogmeister but have been slow in training my students. Then along comes Al Upton and the minilegends.

There is a debate going on in education regarding the use of filters on the internet. The basic idea is to protect our students from inappropriate content and online predators. It's a very weak argument at best. Never the less it's a reality in a lot of our districts. The Super Bloggers such as Will Richardson, David Warlick, Miguel Ghulin, Wes Fryer to name a few, have been advocates for educators to teach our students 21st Century literacy skills. The new ISTE standards go a long way in this process. The Edublogging community now has a cause to fight for. Websense -- Internet filters at our district level are headed by reasonable people. It is our duty to educate them regarding the urgency of our students learning these new literacies to participate in a global community. So, that is what Al Upton and the minilegends have been up to. It is also a reminder that I need get back on the right path and lead my students into the 21st Century.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Creativity and Innovation

I was just listening today to a TED talk today by Sir Ken Robinson. I must of caught a link on twitter. I was pondering the power of creativity in the learning process. It seems that as a teacher I am the enforcer of social norms. I teach a curriculum and expect my students to absorb this knowledge and be able to perform when high stakes testing comes in a month or so. Sir Ken Robinson challenges us to re frame our focus as educators. It is more about the process than on any final outcomes. Learning is about discovering along the way and not the score or diploma at the end of the road.

As an elementary school teacher our language arts units are organized around concepts and themes. I just finished a 6 week cycle looking at imagination. Our selection stories "demonstrated" the use of imagination. In times of standards based education and the use of pacing plans, taking teachable moments and allowing our students to express their imagination is more important then ever.

I am just beginning to read a book I picked up at CUE 2008; Reinventing Project Based Learning. I am not very familiar with the PBL (Project Based Learning) model. It's more than doing arts and crafts or group work. That tends to be what happens after we read a story and I have an extension activity. The book presents the use of Web 2.0 and new ISTE standards as the starting point. I will spend sometime learning more about this model in which my students take a more active role in discovering their own learning. I feel comfortable with the concepts and theory behind these ideas. Nevertheless I am nervous taking this voyage into uncharted seas.

Picture: by Mathew Fang

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Sustainability in Education

Cross Posted at In Practice Group Blog

The concept of life long learner is one that as a teacher I subscribe to. Graduating from college and starting my career has been the beginning of my education. With the advent of the internet and now Web 2.0 this is more true than ever. The last month or so, I’ve been involved in planning for Earth Day 2008. In the past it has only been one more day in a long list of activities that come up in our school year. I can decide “celebrate” with my students or skip it completely. But this year is different.

After some initial research (google to wikipedia search), I have come across the idea of Education for Sustainable Development. As far as I can understand it has to do with meeting our needs today and assuring that future generations can meet their needs as well. Easier said than done. Most of the work has been done through the United Nations and several international conferences starting in 1992.

Agenda 21 looks at a blue print for action on how we as humans affect the environment. I am particularly interested in the sections on involving children in this responsibility. This is where I hit the paradigm shift. In 2005 The United Nations declared a decade of education for sustainable development. I didn’t realize how important I am as a father/teacher and the role I must take in this endeavor. And so the Odyssey begins…

Saturday, March 8, 2008

CUE 2008 TakeAways

I spent the last several days at CUE in Sunny Palm Springs in Southern California. An ideal location for an educational conference. Even though my head is still spinning I want to take a few minutes to give you MY take aways.

The Bloggers Cafe: It was exactly what I expected it to be. An informal environment to have real conversations As I walked in on Thursday morning the first voice I heard was Jdub setting up camp at the Bloggers Cafe and standing next to her Alice Mercer. Being there was an opportunity to connect a face to our Web 2.0 buddies. It was also the venue for the CUE report on Edtech Brainstorm. At one point we had 10+ educators engaged in a conversation on the happenings at the conference. On Friday it was also the space for the panel discussion on Social Networks. Steve Hargadon did such a great job facilitating this discussion. Best of all it was broadcast on Edtechlive ustream channel. It is so important to document what happens during these conversations. Blogging, twittering, ustreaming, and liveblogging go a long way in leaving a record.

Sessions: It's really hard to give this justice. There so many factors that make an effective presentation and leave a lasting impressions. Just like teaching; there are some presenters that are just darn good. I attended several of those sessions. The stars shined! I was looking for presentations that had a catchy title and not commercial. I really appreciate when a presenter has the resources available online. The presenters that concentrate on providing an avenue for me to use these tools in my classroom, make the most impact. I decided I would give LiveBlogging a try using Cover it Live. It is an effective method to put my thoughts as the presentation is going on. These reflections are posted directly to your blog synchronously. Remote participants can view your thoughts and add their own comments. I especially like the interaction you can have with virtual attendees.

EdtechEvangelism: On Friday night I attended my affiliate meeting. I did a short presentation on the power of MY network, Edtechtalk, as part of being selected as Outstanding Teacher of the Year. My basic argument is that I (and You) have the power to create your own PLE - Personal Learning Environment. Our networks give us a new kind of professional development. But this comes with a responsibility to give back and bring in others into the edupodosphere. Now I feel am ready to go back to my classroom!

Leveraging Technologies for Student Learning by Tammy Stephen

Literacy in a Digital Classroom by Gayle Berthiaume

Google Earth Goodies by Alix Peshette

Friday, March 7, 2008

Busy Afternoon at CUE2008

I had an exciting morning Live Blogging. I used Cover It Live. I really like the interface. So I had a quick lunch by the pool. I went back to the exhibit hall and caught two quick CUE tips, 20 minute sessions. Mark Warner had a session on the use of twitter and David Jakes had a session on the use of
One of my conference highlights is being able to sit in on Social Networking in Education. Steve Hargadon, Sylvia Martinez, James Klein, David Jakes, Dennis O'Connor, and Mark Wagner led a discussion on Social Networks; their development, how their used in education, and future possibilities. It was ustreamed live at EdtechLive. More than anything it was about being advocates for 21st Century Learning.

Video in the Classroom by Mathew Needleman

Digital Storytelling by David Jakes; CUE2008

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Power of Your Network

I spent most of the day hanging out at the Bloggers Cafe. The exhibit hall was your usual conference vendors pushing the next miracle cure to our NCLB woes. I did get a chance to add a few cool pens to my collection. The ISTE booth had good books. I couldn't walk away without some good reading and I bought a book on project based learning. It'll be my commute reading for the next couple of weeks.

I had scheduled a webcast on Edtechtalk Brainstorm with Doug Symington. Now this was the highlight of my evening. We did a live report from CUE2008. We started with a small group sharing our CUE experience. During the show people started to walk by the Bloggers Cafe and stopping to see what all the fuss was about. We stopped a few and had them come on the show. It was pretty cool to get so many people involved in the conversation.

On Friday I'll be attending a CUE-LA meeting. My edtech coordinators nominated me to receive an award. I get my 5 minutes of fame and glory. It's just like accepting an Oscar :-) I figured I'd talk about MY network; EdtechTalk.

Pop in and stay awhile, Pop-up Sessions.

I am spending day popping in and out of some pretty cool sessions. Just getting warmed up for the conference. I decided to have a late breakfast instead of going to the first session. I figured it's better to skip lunch than it is to skip breakfast. I stuck around to get some cool tips on blogs and wikis given by Brian Bridges. Biggest take-away; using gmail as a portable hard drive. Very good overview of the power of blogs and wikis for educators.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Getting Ready For CUE

Last day before I head out for CUE. I've been to CUE several times, but it's been a few years since I've had a chance to go. I first attended CUE during my first year as a teacher back..... in 97. It seemed kind of overwhelming and chaotic. I wasn't sure what everybody was so excited about. I did see some cool stuff, but not sure how I would use it in my classroom. A few years after that CUE moved down to Anaheim, California. It was a lot closer to my work in L.A. I attended twice then. By this time I was starting to use some old Pentium II's in my classroom and we had internet connection at school. I would download freeware and use on these computers. At this time I also bought Kidpix and Kidspiration to use with my students. The sessions that I remember the most were David Thornburg giving a hippie tech talk. I also enjoyed one session given by Peter Reynolds from Fablevision and how he was using a tablet to draw on a screen.

Now a few years later, I am going back to CUE. Since then I have been out of the classroom and now back again. I have built my network with social networking sites like edtechtalk and twitter. I am hoping to meet F2F some of these educators these next couple of days. I have high expectations. I am looking forward to connecting with other educators and enjoying a few days out in the sun!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Wooden Nickelz

Back in college I worked as a scorekeeper for an adult softball league. In sunny Southern California, this is a year round job. We used Toshiba laptops with a program for score keeping baseball. It would keep all stats from defense to batting averages. At the end of the game we would distribute game stats we printed on triplicate paper using a dot matrix printer. (I think I just dated myself :-) Well either way, this was my introduction to technology. I spent countless hours over a few years dealing with the day to day use of these tech tools. I did all the trouble shooting you can think of. Every once in a while a player did not agree with a stat or a decision I made regarding an error that was given or how I scored a hit versus a double. They would come up to me after the game to convince me to change the stat. They would use every excuse in the book and they usually went back empty handed. I always remembered what my boss would tell us; "Don't take any wooden nickels".

Now a few years later, or more. I have kept this as my philosophy. As I go through life and all the deals it offers me, I remember to be careful to sort the real nickels from the wooden nickelz. So comes along educational technology and Web 2.0 tools for educators. There are a lot of folks out there that are advocates for our students and then there are a few wooden nickels. So join me on my journey as I (a third grade teacher) try to sort all this out.