Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Career Pathways Resources

Sally Loughlin shared two books that articulate the framework for a Career Pathways initiative. In conversations about the place Career Pathways might take in our work, she searched for a figure from the book Career Pathways: Preparing students for life (Howard and Ill, 2004). I saw potential application for iTeams both as a planning resource and as project material for an iTeam. So, I borrowed the book and found excellent resources (including templates and planning documents) and a helpful copyright statement:
All rights reserved. When forms and sample documents are included, thier use is authorized only by educators, local school sites, and/or noncommercial entities who have purchased the book.
Since the high school has purchased multiple copies of the book, we satisfy the copyright condition. I searched for related online resources and found a SlideShare presentation that summarizes the book in 33 slides. The figure that Sally called to my attention is slide number 4 in this presentation.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

GuestWiFi at Midcoast Hospital

I brought a book to read while I waited for my appointment. Last time I was here (a year ago?), I had to search high and low for a way to get access. The hospital library had one computer. Today, I found signs stuck on service counters that welcomed public access the the hospital's GuestWiFi. Now we can easily get access to additional sources of information.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Open governance: BigDialog

Theron recently asked me for information about our family's experience with math enrichment in the Pullman School District. He wanted to share it with a colleague at WSU.
When I sent him the information he wanted, he shared some links on open governance sites that are growing in parallel with Obama's campaign and transition:

BigDialog is one of he efforts intended to increase participation. While it is interesting, I wonder whether a simple click on thumbs up or down is the kind of commitment required for substantive change. These are a user generated form of self-selected response polls. Note the interesting use of the mashup with Google Maps that indicate the distribution of responses that are color-coded.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Testing the new Simile Timeline tool

David at the Simile Project at MIT has made it even easier to create timelines:

Friday, February 15, 2008

Surveymonkey's technology enhanced support

We have been using Zoho Creator and Surveymonkey to collect data for formative assessment and other uses. This morning I wanted to know whether we could share the responsibility for creating assessments and surveys with other users. This is an important feature because we can build on one another's work and improve our efficiency of our efforts to improve learning and assessment. So I posed this question to the support contact form at Surveymonkey:

Export surveys to use in another account?

2/15/2008 10:55:59 AM
Your site explains clearly how to export data from surveys. It also explains how to use one survey to create a copy of it that can subsequently modified. It also explains how to use system-wide templates to start and then modify.

Is is possible to export a survey and then import into a second account? Can professional accounts mimic characteristics of your template functions so that surveys can be developed for similar user communities? For example, if our school district develops a survey that helps us improve instruction, can we share it with other districts who may want to build on our work? I. e. you have an open data capacity, do you also have an open content capacity?

Thanks for your assistance.
Immediately after submitting the form containing my request, the site responded with the following page:
One more step! You are not quite finished.

Based on your initial question, please review the following topics we have found for you. One may provide an immediate answer to your question.

If this does not fully answer your question: [Submit]

Apparently, the support system "scanned" my query and compared it with its database of questions they have already answered and published on their support site. They wanted to make sure that I had found an answer to my question if one already existed. I had already used their search function to look for "export" but all I could find were references to exporting data rather than the surveys themselves. So, I submitted the form and returned to working on related projects while the humans took over trying to interpret my request. Mychal, a support provider, responded several minutes later:
Mychal Hoffman (Support) 2/15/2008 11:02:19 AM
You can transfer surveys designs to another account.
Here is how:

You will want to select Copy (not Move to do this). If you copy the survey into another account, this will not copy the data or responses. ...
His response continues with more details on characteristics of the copying process. So, it turns out that they had answered my question already. But, they use the term "Transfer" to refer to reusing surveys and reserve the term "Export" for references to data. That distinction eluded the help systems' inference engine. I anticipate that the next generation will get it right.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A global essential question and our responses

Bob Herbert, an editorial writer for the NY Times, asked an essential question for the nation in his recent editorial "Where's the Big Idea?":
The essential question the candidates should be trying to answer — but that is not even being asked very often — is how to create good jobs in the 21st century. Thirty-seven million Americans are poor, and roughly 60 million others are near-poor. (These are people struggling to make it on incomes of $20,000 to $40,000 a year for a family of four.)
I like this way framing the issue because it reflects good principles of design. We use a similar approach in our efforts to improve learning and assessment based in part on the work of Wiggins and McTigue: Understanding by Design. The idea is simple- start with the goal in mind and plan backward to identify what is required to achieve that goal. Implementing that simple idea can be challenging but usually worth the effort.

Personally, I search for answers to this essential question through our efforts to find ways to use technology to support improving teaching and learning. Suzie Boss, an author of the recently published book Reinventing Problem-based Learning, asks, "What's missing?":
American teens are plenty confident that they can solve the world's most vexing problems with the help of technology, according to the latest Lemelson-MIT Invention Index. There's just one not-so-small catch: more than half of today's high school students feel unprepared for careers in technology and engineering.
What can we do to help teacher candidates help their future students and colleagues to answer these global essential questions? Suzie's answer includes more support for project-based learning. MSAD75's (Maine School Administrative District) district-wide commitment to expanding service-learning opportunities show how schools can engage in this work.

Note: I tried to find a brief introduction to the ideas behind the term "essential questions" at Wikipedia but did not find an entry for it. I'd like to see a group of pre-service candidates create an article as an authentic performance of their developing understanding of this important idea.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Cellphones for learning field testing

In class on Monday, we discussed use of cellphones by young children and their potential to support students' learning and assessment. I returned to the office and found this description of students, teacher, administrator and support staff working collaboratively to explore the opportunities.

I had the great privilege of being invited to spend some time in a learning experiment in one of the local schools that I work with. The principal, let’s call him Gord (that’s actually his real name) emailed me about some interesting idea he and his grade 8/9 teacher had. The class was studying the novel The Wave. The book is about an experiment itself so it seemed perfect to their teacher, Carla to try out an experiment of their own.

So I popped in for a visit and here’s what I found:

  • Engagement. As Carla and Gord pointed out, the cellphone novelty will soon pass, the engagement was with the ideas and sharing. Students were not really dazzled by their phones, they simply used them to share ideas, pictures, sounds and videos. The real engagement was with each other and the story. The cellphones were almost seamless.

The post continues with more description of the process. Sounds like a community committed to the idea of "Every one a teacher and every one a learner!"

Sunday, January 27, 2008

I'm searching for resources...

I'm searching for resources about the universal design for learning I found this a link to and I wanted to check out how it works so I'm check to see whether or lest me post a post to my blogger account. Thanks. Bye. listen

Powered by Jott

I'm searching for resources about UDL (universal design for learning). I found a link to and I wanted to check out how it works. So I'm checking to see whether it lets me post to my blogger account.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Testing posting via MSAD75 network

I was able to contribute this post over the Middle School Network.

Monday, January 21, 2008

My MLK Day On

Last week, I wrote about the movement to make today's Martin Luther King, Jr. Day "A day on, not a day off". I knew that I wanted to participate but at the time, I did not know how. On Saturday evening, I met Billy P. and I discovered my way to celebrate Dr. King's life of service. I didn't meet Billy in person, rather I met him as the lead in the documentary film "Billy the Kid". Jennifer Venditti, the film's director, and her colleagues are screening the film in selected locations and filming Q&A sessions that may become part of the final release on DVD. They played to sold-out shows for the hometown fans.

Toward the end of the film (trailer), Billy says,
“I’m not black, I’m not white, not foreign … just different in the mind. Different brains, that’s all. I walk alone like a lonely soul, …”

So, today I'm spending my day on learning from Billy, Jennifer Venditti, and our community about our different selves.

BILLY THE KID - Public Service Announcement

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Monday, January 14, 2008

MLK Day: Make it a day on, not a day off.

Monday January 21, 2008 is the national celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s life and work. UNE plans several activities in support of the celebration. I encourage our students to participate in those activities. Since I believe that learning and technology both play essential roles in helping us to move toward King's vision, I find irony in the university's choice to cancel classes on that day. I hope that students will choose to "make it a day on". The National Service Corporation cites the Helping youth to use technology project as an effective practice:
Technology access to youth in underserved areas has long been a concern for those seeking to bridge the digital divide. An organization in San Diego teaches "technoliteracy" so that youth can use media in ways that are meaningful to their lives. While youth express themselves by authoring online magazines and producing visual art for gallery exhibits, they are empowered and connected to global issues.
For my day on, I plan to go to the Technology Lab and work on building our capacity to sustain our efforts in service-learning.

Organizers of the MLK Tech Scholars project have a similar vision:
In Chicago''s West Town community, the NTRC will launch the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Technology Scholars Program (MLK Tech Scholars) for students in grades 8 - 12. To bridge the "digital divide", this program will link 25 local students with area businesses, churches and organizations to increase awareness and lend their technology expertise in areas that include web site development, database creation, and word processing. Participating youth will attend an eight-week pre-service training that will refine their technology experience, and orient them to the significance of service-learning. After the eight weeks, each youth will complete a four-week, on-site technology project with a partner organization.

Michael W. Smith Calls on Americans to Serve on King Day 00:00:42
Musician Michael W. Smith calls on Americans to make the upcoming King Holiday a "day on and not a day off" by coming together to participate in volunteer projects that improve life in their communities. Smith is a member of the President's Council on Service and Civic Participation.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Read as if your life depended on it!

In "Don't just read for fun", Danny Heitman comments on the latest NEA report about declining rates of reading. He cautions against the simple approach of making reading fun so that kids will choose to read more.

Since Cerf's declaration that it's fun to read, we've hung "Reading is Fun" banners in libraries and classrooms and promoted reading fun on educational television. The idea, perfectly well meaning, is to hook children on a lifelong skill without letting them know they're being taught.

But in making this bargain, perhaps we've inadvertently conditioned new generations of Americans to think of reading as a literary amusement park, full of thrills, chills, and a few pleasant gags that indulge us without asking anything in return.

It may be that fewer young Americans today read in their spare time because the reading-is-fun philosophy has taught them to regard books as just another species of popular entertainment, blithely interchangeable with the latest sitcom or movie blockbuster. It's a comparison in which the quieter medium of literature seems ill suited to compete.

Heitman goes on to contrast "reading is fun" with "reading can be much more" by reminding us about a scene in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird:

In Harper Lee's famous novel, small-town lawyer Atticus Finch defends a black man wrongly accused of rape in Depression-era Alabama. In a sentence meant to deride her father's wallflower personality, Finch's daughter flatly observes: "He sat in his livingroom and read."

But what we slowly discover is that Finch's reading isn't just passive play, but a vital wellspring.

As he waits for an inevitable confrontation with a gang of vigilantes, Finch reads in the dark, lonely night by the light of a single bulb.

Struggling against a town that despises his principles, Finch routinely reads to widen his worldview and deepen his soul. He is reading, in a very real way, as if his life depends on it.

That sense of daring and risk, of deep emotional and spiritual discovery, is what gets lost when we think of books only as avenues to pleasure. As the NEA report makes clear, reading can also be a source of civic and social renewal.

The video trailer for the film version of "To Kill a Mockingbird" does not include that scene but it does implicitly convey the civic and social impact that books and their film adaptations can have on a nation learning to live up to its ideals in the 1960s.

Lee's novel and the film explicitly address the role of reading as if your life depended on it. Jamie Wheeler explains the role of reading and its relationship to more formal learning in a response to the question "What makes Atticus Finch a great father?" at

One of the reasons Atticus is a great father, in my opinion, is the way he treats his children like reasonable human beings. For instance, when Scout balks at going to school, fearing that her beloved reading time with her father will be pushed out due to lack of time.

Atticus, in his lawyerly, loving way makes a deal with her. A compromise:

"Do you know what a compromise is?" he asked.

"Bending the law?"

"No, an agreement reached by mutual concessions. It works this way," he said. "if you'll concede the necessity of going to school, we'll go on reading every night just as we always have. Is it a bargain?"

Kate or I read to Sarah and Rosa for 20 minutes or more nearly every night until well after they could read well for themselves. I even remember lines from some of those books- "Big A, little a, what begins with A? Aunt Annie's alligator ... I do! I'm a Zizzer Zazzer Zuzz as you can plainly see." (Dr. Suess' ABC) Some phrases from those books have become literary allusions for our family life- "What? Forget? No, I never forget!" (Rice, E. Sam who never forgets)

We may have started this practice because we thought it would help them but now I know that it helped me as well. What can we do to help more families make this bargain?

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

School data tutorials

The CASTLE project at Iowa State* promotes the development of data analysis skills in every school building.
Although not every educator needs to have the skills addressed by these tutorials, every school organization needs to have a critical mass of personnel who can work with raw data and provide assistance and/or data analyses to other staff. If educators are to truly realize the power of data-driven decision-making, these "data managers" should be in every school building, not just the district central office. This is true even in school districts that already have a comprehensive data management and analysis (i.e., data warehouse) or instructional management and assessment system, since educators in those districts often find that they still have a need to work with raw data outside of those software systems.
They provide School Data Tutorials, a series of tutorials in using intermediate to advanced spreadsheet analysis in the context of school issues. Anyone who has the combination of classroom experience and these analytical skills should have an edge. Developments in new technologies may change the way we collect and manage data but the need for analysis will grow.

*Formerly at Minnesota during the development of the data tools?

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Creative Commons Resources

Sally Loughlin helps me to understand the context for change in schools. We started with face-to-face meetings but use several modes now that I spend more time working at UNE in Biddeford. During nearly every update we exchange our latest reciprocal recommendations for readings. On the phone last week, she recommended the most recent issue (Dec 2007/Jan 2008) of the ASCD journal Educational Leadership. The theme for the issue is Informative Assessment. She observed that many of the articles connnect with pre-service candidates that will take the Technology for Teaching and Learning course that starts later this month.

As usual, Sally's recommendations are right on target. The issue contains several useful articles. Mark Overmeyer shares his insights from leading improvement of student writing in What Student Writing Can Teach Us. He recommends using a modified form of rubrics to focus on informative assessment. I like his suggestions and want to use some of them in TTL but saw that his article is protected by copyright. So, I set off on a search for Creative Commons versions of rubrics for student writing.

I found Sharon Fagan's rubric and a writing checklist at the Maricopa Learning Exchange. The MLX encourages users to add sharebacks (a variant of trackbacks) to acknowledge use of resources. I have tried to do so in the links above but am not surprised to see that few sharebacks are listed. They have tried to explain it but it takes a lot of effort.

Denise Young at the University of North Carolina provides a lesson that uses "thirty copies of the rubric for student writing". LearnNC takes a different approach to acknowledging use:

We want you to use our resources for teaching and learning! That's why we publish them. To make it easy for you, we now license most of our content under a Creative Commons BY/NC/SA license, version 2.5. When you see this icon:

Creative Commons Icon: Some Rights Reserved

you know that you are absolutely free to use the resources on that page in your classroom. In fact, you can use the resource for any non-commercial purpose whatsoever, so long as you attribute it to its creator.
They even provide a snippet of code that makes it easy to acknowledge their contributions to shared resources: Learning wants to be free

Let's find ways to build this into our work, too.