Monday, December 31, 2007

Testing XO Compatibility

I participated in the XO Give one, get one program. I have been testing it to determine the extent to which it can support the kinds of activities that I think are important for technology integration in support of learning and assessment. Here, I test blogger for its compatibility. Both the Edit Html and the Compose views work but the link tool will not open a new window so that it won't allow me to create links. The Labels for this post: tool works well by bringing up suggestions as I enter leading letters of some of my standard tags.

Image source a Primary 5 Student's photograph taken with an XO OLPC Galadima, Nigeria, Creative Commons license.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Technology for human ends

"How can we use technology to make
this a humanly possible job?"

I met briefly with Heather Sadlier this morning in order to coordinate our integrating parts of her course in social studies methods with Technology for teaching and learning. She is very busy at this time of year because she meets with each of her students to assess reciprocally. We didn't have as much time as either of us wanted so we spoke concisely. I read her syllabus and reviewed the text website last night, and perused the text she uses this morning. I found several points of intersection between the two courses that we will be able to develop.

She told me that her students like the lesson plans that Parker includes with his text because they want quality material but need to be able to use it efficiently. I pointed out that they are using technology to support their needs. Then I said that that is a major theme of the new course. When I said the words quoted above, Heather grabbed my pen and a piece of paper and wrote the quote. She identified it as the essential question for using technology for teaching and learning and insisted on my giving her a copy. Let's build a powerful learning community on them.

Collaboration and databases for learning

Doug Lynch, Chair of our department, sent the following email message to me recently calling my attention to an article that he found:
Steve: I found this article that may be of interest as we craft grant plans...but has implications for your mission as well.
Douglas J. Lynch, Ph. D.
The citation for the article he recommended is:
Sara Dexter, Aaron H Doering, Eric S Riedel. (2006). Content Area Specific Technology Integration: A Model For Educating Teachers. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 14(2), 325-345. Retrieved December 19, 2007, from Education Module database. (Document ID: 1017922091 [link requires UNE Network access]).
The article describes an ambitious college-wide strategy for dual integration:
This dual integration (technology integrated in the content area methods course, and the content area integrated into the technology course) is the essence of the model of teacher technology preparation we present here. The fellows were essential as they were the bridge between these two domains of knowledge as well as between the instructors of the technology and methods courses. All participants' willingness to learn and to organize their efforts around the teaching and learning of that content area was also essential.
This supports the initiatives that Heather and (and Dan to a smaller degree) have started for integrating across Social Studies Methods and Technology for Teaching and Learning.

I followed another lead in the paper from a section where the authors described their process of establishing the ways of working together
The technology course instructor, and usually the project director, met with the methods course instructors in each content area to learn about the standards, important ideas and processes in that content area, and the learning outcomes for the methods courses. During these meetings we introduced the concept of mindtools (Jonassen, 1996) and started to identify, which technologies might be best for their students to learn. The mindtools concept, and later the notion of using technology to add value to instruction and assessment (i.e., technology making possible something otherwise impossible to do or difficult to achieve) proved to be generative concepts for the faculty members' learning. These ideas helped the faculty members focus on topics in their content area where technology could really help teaching and learning. That we argued from the outset that technology wasn't a panacea, but rather a tool with capabilities that could be very helpful in carefully selected instances, also lent credibility to the project staff and technology course instructor's efforts.
Doug had marked the Jonassen citation (1996) with the comment "get." The citation refers to the book Computers in the classroom: Mindtools for critical thinking. While we wait to get the book, I searched for related work from Jonassen. He surprised me with the best justification I have found so far for my claim that databases are valuable resources for teaching and learning. For several weeks, I have been trying to help Doug understand why I think that Zoho Creator is such an important development.
Databases may also be used as tools for interpreting, analyzing, and organizing subject content by learners. Student-constructed databases using a Concept Development Strategy and an Interpretation of Data Strategy requires learners to select information to collect and to organize it into meaningful categories (Rooze, 1988-89). Student-constructed databases have been used to support history instruction (Knight & Timmons, 1986) and lessons on seashells (Goldberg, 1992), and as an inquiry tool to aid higher-level thinking in a fourth-grade American Indian studies course (Pon, 1984). Constructing database queries is a form of hypothesis testing (Katzeff, 1987). The database shown in Fig. 1 was developed by learners studying cells and their functions in a biology course. Although the intellectual benefits of building knowledge databases is obvious, more formal research on the efficacy of these activities is needed.

Designing a database requires the learner to identify a content domain, sense an information need, and develop a data structure for accommodating the information to be included. Building databases involves analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating information (Watson & Strudler, 1988-89). Database construction is an analytic process which engages important critical thinking skills such as evaluating, organizing, and connecting information; a few creative skills such as analogical reasoning and planning; and several complex thinking skills such designing a product, problem solving and decision making (Jonassen, 1996).
Let's get designing and building!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Analogous standards

Last Friday, I wrote about observing a PERB, the culminating performances of teacher candidates: Reading/Writing Workshop and GoodReads. On Monday morning, department faculty met to discuss approaches that we can use to meet the NCATE standards for diversity. Susan Hillman pointed out that we need to be able to show evidence of meeting the standards. A flash of insight took me back to SATs and GREs. The Educational Testing Service uses analogy questions because they probe higher levels of thinking than straight recall.

PERB is to Candidates as NCATE Accreditation is to Faculty.

As a department, we need to understand and show evidence of creating a program that meets the NCATE standards in the same way that we expect candidates to show how they have met the Initial Teacher Certification Standards. We talked about saving samples of student work to share with the accreditation review team. Early this morning, Tuesday, I saw that we have an opportunity to develop a win-win solution for students and the department. If we explain the analogy to candidates in the Technology for teaching and learning course, they will understand easily based on their prior knowledge of standards as they experience them. Then the shared resources that students create in the course can also serve as evidence for meeting the NCATE standards. We model using standards to continuously improve our practice at the same time we ask students to use standards to improve theirs.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Reading/Writing Workshop and GoodReads

Noelle Richard, a very recent graduate of UNE's Department of Education, presented her work at the Professional Education Review Board (PERB) yesterday. Candidates are charged with the task of showing the PERB panel of practicing educators that they understand and show evidence of having met the Maine Ten Initial Teacher Certification Standards. Standard Five addresses instructional strategies and technology:
Understands and uses a variety of instructional strategies and appropriate technologies.
Noelle described how she used Nancie Atwell's Reading/Writing Workshop approach in reading classes she taught at Saco Middle School (SMS). Maine's Middle Schools participate in the Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI) so each seventh and eighth grade student and teacher has a laptop. Noelle saw an opportunity to enhance the program with technology using GoodReads. She learned about the book-oriented social networking site from a friend and used it personally. She thought that SMS eighth-graders would probably learn from and enjoy using the site, too. She proposed the idea to her mentor and worked through details required for a pilot program (permissions, email logins, rules, ... ). She reported that students and teachers enjoyed and learned from their use of GoodReads. She certainly convinced the PERB panel that she met the Standards.

I find great promise in her experience. It shows how our students can take their experiences with recent developments in network technologies and build on them in professionally productive ways. Standard ten describes the importance of contributions to professional development.
Demonstrates a strong professional ethic and a desire to contribute to the education profession.
Noelle contributed to the professional practice of a receptive school community. She helped me identify a potential solution to an issue that Lisa Hogan and I have been discussing at the MSAD 75 wiki. By sharing her innovation with the PERB panel, she also contributed to our broader professional learning community.

Thank you, Noelle for your work and your sharing. I look forward to following your work at GoodReads.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

ProQuest Alerts: Tech for learning and research

Several weeks ago I used ProQuest via the UNE Library to get the full text of an article I wanted to read. I enjoyed the article and wanted to "keep up" on new developments from this research team. So, I signed up for a ProQuest Alert: How to Set Up an Alert. With the press of other tasks, I moved on to other work and let the alert fade from active memory. The ProQuest system surprised me pleasantly this morning with the following message:


Looking for publication of Penuel's research article on which the article with Riel was based.

Below are the latest results for your alert. Click the links to view an article in ProQuest.
Delete this alert - Use this link if you wish to stop receiving this alert.
Help - Having trouble using this alert? Follow this link for instructions and support.

Databases selected: Multiple databases...
1 new articles found for: AU(William R Penuel)

1. What Makes Professional Development Effective? Strategies That Foster Curriculum Implementation
William R Penuel, Barry J Fishman, Ryoko Yamaguchi, Lawrence P Gallagher. American Educational Research Journal. Washington: Dec 2007. Vol. 44, Iss. 4; p. 921 (38 pages)

Abstract Abstract | Full text Full text | Full Text - PDF Full Text - PDF

The message provides links to a very recent article on a topic of great interest to me and potentially to our teacher candidates. I am writing this post on a computer that is not on the UNE network so the links require login and password that I don't have. They won't work for readers of this post either. So, I will wait until I return to the authorized network and read it then.

Now, that's a technology enhancement for teaching, learning and research!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Organization for workshop classes

In her book, In the Middle, Nancie Atwell relates a story about Donald Graves visiting her classroom and identifying the basis of her success: organization. " 'Look,' he explained seriously. 'You can't teach writing this way if you're not organized. ... You two always ran a tight ship and you still do, but it's a different kind of ship.' "

When I first read this story, I worried because I don't think of organization as being one of my primary strengths. But as I read further, I started to take heart. Several of the tools that Atwell recommends for organizing workshop classes are paper-based forms. She writes at length about the evolution of her system. Finally she asks "again and again, as a teacher, what do I really need to know?" (p. 106)

For Technology in the classroom, we can ask "what do we really need to know, and how much of that can we capture in distributed data acquisition tools?"

The School and Society By John Dewey

I am reading Nancie Atwell's In the Middle to get a better sense of how Dan Rothermel approaches teaching reading and writing. As a department, we are trying to find ways to improve integration among courses. The question for me is how can we build on what students have learned or are learning in Dan's class?

Atwell writes about her reasons for organizing her classes as reading and writing workshops. She quotes John Dewey's School and Society to make a point about life in and out of school. I wanted to see the context of the quote so I searched in Google and found a copy of that book. I also found a new selection tool. So I test it here as an exploration of how to incorporate it into my work. The tool is a selection box that lets me select a passage and then put the snippet into my blog or a notebook. I can choose to insert image or text. Since the copy that Google scanned included a penciled highlight, I chose image:
Text not available
The School and Society By John Dewey
The anonymous reader's pencil mark gives me the sense that others have participated in this written conversation.
I don't yet understand the html code that Google Books transferred to my blog. I'll see when I publish it.

After seeing the published version of my post, I was still confused about the html. I have now resolved the issue by understanding how to use the tool. And while I am thinking about this larger community, I note that Google Books gives me more of a sense of writing community in its popular passages listing:

Popular passages

Page 27
possession of our school system. To do this means to make each one of our schools an embryonic community life, active with types of occupations that reflect...

Page 28
him with the spirit of service, and providing him with the instruments of effective self-direction, we shall have the deepest and best guaranty of a larger...

I am part of a larger community of practice that spans both time and space. Google lets makes it easy to connect to others in this community.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Heuristic evaluation

Martha Corkery returned from a conference with a recommendation that we use a process of Heuristic Evaluation to refine and improve our courses in our new MSE graduate program. Independently, Brian Phipps, recommended a resource to support the development of brand usability that includes a section on: Heuristic Evaluation.
A usability evaluation method in which one or more reviewers, preferably experts, compare a software, documentation, or hardware product to a list of design principles (commonly referred to as heuristics) and list where the product does not follow those principles.
The site illustrates some important principles of usability and looks valuable for other approaches, too.