Friday, January 30, 2009

Videos - a reflective learning medium

HabĂ­a nevado, disparaba al reflejo de la torre...Image by berpala via Flickr

The videos we are taking as part of our iTeams work are intended to help us observe, reflect and share our learning processes. We hope to develop a cadre of skilled videographers who can explore and support the use of video as a reflective learning medium. While the video we took yesterday needs quite a bit of refinement, students seem to be sufficiently engaged by the potential to commit time and effort to the project. Two reactions to the activities convince me that we are on the right track:

First, I reminded iTeam members that we will need to collect permission from parents (release form) before we can proceed much further with the project. I thought that I would have to find a suitable form, copy it, and distribute it to students. Jacob interpreted my reminder in a much more exciting way. While other students worked on creating the prototype video, Jacob spontaneously opened a blank document and created a form asking parents of iTeam members to give permission for their students to participate in our video project. Then he submitted an iTeam Activity Log entry describing his work:
1/29/2009 10:55:11
Rough Draft Release Form
iTeam members
I created rough draft for a release form so videos can be showed to the school board.
Jacob helped me understand additional ways that members can contribute to our collaborative work. I thanked him for his initiative and encouraged all members to consider this as an example of skills, processes and culture that we are trying to develop. I also gently pointed out that we may need to get help to include legal issues that the district will want to see, too.

Second, two students asked if they could return after school to work more on the video project. Shortly after the regular school day ended, four students came to the media center and we reviewed the raw video clip and discussed how we could improve the quality and effectiveness. They are already considering multiple cameras, ways to improve the sound quality, and "stage" presence.

While helping students learn to use the new iMacs in the Media Center, an iTeam member and I noticed the adjacent iMac importing video from one of the Library's cameras. He asked me what I thought it was. While I didn't watch much, it seemed as if the subject of the video were a classroom and a teacher working with students. I know that the NBPTS certification process requires that teachers take such videos of themselves and submit them as part of their portfolios of evidence. Was the video we saw being transferred yesterday related to that process? If so, then we should explore whether iTeams can help with support for that kind of activity.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Moonrise at Dawn over the Sound

We look southeast over the Sound and often see spectacular sunrises. Here, the moon rises and its image is reflected in the sound as dawn starts. Flickr makes the sequence into a simple animation. Next time, I'll know to plan the sequence more carefully. The Sound was relatively still that morning. Waves make interesting patterns of reflections. Masts and shrouds remind me of Fourier Transforms.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Video of learning for learning and assessment

GymnasticsImage via WikipediaLisa Hogan and I talked recently about using video for learning. She related her experience as a gymnast trying to make a difficult move. Her coach showed her video of failure to catch the bar. She said that she saw the problem and corrected it.

Malcolm Gladwell (Outliers p. 245) summarizes Alan Schoenfeld's use of videos of learning for learning:
Over the course of his career, Schoenfeld has videotaped countless students as they worked on math problems. But the Renee tape is one of his favorites because of how beautifully it illustrates what he considers to be the secret to learning mathematics. Twenty-two minutes pass from the moment Renee begins playing with the computer program to the moment she says "Ahhhh. That means something now." That's a long time. "This is eighth-grade mathematics," Schoenfeld said. "If I put the average eighth grader in the same position as Renee, I'm guessing that after the first few attempts, they would have said, 'I don't get it. I need you to explain it.' " Schoenfeld once asked a group of high school students how long they would work on a homework question before they concluded it was too hard for them to solve. Their answers ranged from thirty seconds to five minutes, with the average answer two minutes.

But Renee persists. She experiments. She goes back over the same issues time and again. She thinks out loud. She keeps going and going. She simply won't give up. She knows on some vague level that there is something wrong with her theory about how to draw a vertical line, and shw won't stop until she's absolutely sure she has it right.
Similarly, Tony Wagner (Global Achieve Gap Videos p. 142) commends video of teaching as a learning tool:
At the time, the only course offered on instruction and supervision was an elective, taught by Catherine Krupnick. In Catherine's course, we spent class time looking at and discussing videotapes of real teachers in their classrooms and then role-playing what we would say in a supervision conference that might help the teacher improve. It was a enormously engaging class and the only one that I took in all of my graduate years that had any practical application to the teaching and leadership issues that most concerned me. The course should have been required for my master's program.

Later, when I worked as a faculty member in a university teacher education program and supervised other's practice teaching, I required my students to bring copies of video tapes of their lessons to our seminars and found them to be a powerful tool for improving their teaching. I truly believe that viewing and discussing videos of teaching and supervision is the single most effective strategy for improving instruction for all schools, yet it is almost never done, for reasons that we'll explore in a moment.
If one of the goals for iTeam is for members to facilitate learning, it makes sense for members to record and reflect on our learning, too.

Tech support for community- and service-learning

FBProjectCan we grow service like this?
by SCSpaeth via Flickr
Nancy Scola proposes an approach to a problem that the District Service-Learning Leadership Team has considered: Could a "Craigslist for Service" Actually Work? She considers several pros and cons for this strategy. She solicited Craig Newmark's opinion, too:

That's enough from me. Let's hear from an expert: Craiglist founder Craig Newmark. I asked him for his take:

Many people in the US want to do more to help other people, not just the new "civic generation" but people across all ages and background. I feel we need both top-down and bottom-up means of getting people together to do so. The bottom-up version would involve online tools which would get people together to spontaneously connect, possibly via existing social networking tools. We're all busy, but now and then we have free time, and a good grassroots, local tool would be great.

Nils Peterson supports Scola's idea:

Light-weight volunteer organizing can work

You are on the right track.
Mid-way down this post are examples that are already underway or show promise.

Further, our experience with these ideas at Washington State University, is that courses can be re-designed so that the learner-volunteer taps the resources of the class (faculty, peers, materials) to apply them into an authentic (and personally motivating) problem.

We discussed this issue at the last Service-Learning Leadership Team meeting and observed that Brunswick has made progress on developing the desired culture:
Mary recommended Brunswick High School's implementation of Community and Service-Learning and pointed to its web-based support: BHS Community Service. Barb noted that the Brunswick community has developed a culture around service so that students are looking for opportunities with support from the community.
But we also noted that the database needs updating.
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Learning through service

Schematic view of curriculum as the course of ...Curriculum in and out of school via WikipediaNils Peterson writes about plans for expeditionary learning at the Palouse Prarie School in his post Implementing Obama's 100 Hours of Service Plan.
For example, a school could set a goal to harness the interests and expertise of the school’s community (students, staff, parents and alumni) to address real world problems encountered by communities both locally and globally. Its curriculum would be designed to collaborate with community members - institutional, local, or global – to identify a problem, explore solutions, develop a plan, and then take steps toward implementing that plan. Students would engage these challenges as service learning. The outcomes of their work would be readily documentable using ideas like Gary Brown’s Harvesting Gradebook. But more than just documenting the student work, the process would have transformative impacts on the educational institution also, far more profound than the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA) or the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) standardized testing.
MSAD 75 iTeams are using similar strategies but don't have the advantage of having the entire curriculum devoted to the approach. iTeam members seem to be engaged by the approach. Barb Swisher, a Middle School teacher, reported that Brunswick's community service program has become part of its school and community culture even though it is only a part of student experience.

iTeams Activity Log

Blog better using ZemantaImage by chucks via FlickrAs iTeams grow in members and engagement, it is important that we have a way to share our activities. So, in Thursday's meeting at the Middle School, we created the iTeam Activity Log. It is a form-based data collection tool that iTeam members can use to briefly log their activities. Since the tool is a Google form, it has a challenging url. Since it needs to be easy to use the tool, we learned how to add the link to the bookmarks toolbar so they have it at hand. Brandon tried to use his handheld device to enter the url manually and we discovered how important it is to have a link. Eric entered his record for the work he has been doing on the Introduction to iTeams presentation. I added one for my work on Zemanta support for blogging:
During my rereading about Zoho Creator databases on their blog, I discovered the ReBlog It tool that lead me to Zemanta. It seems like a potentially useful tool for sharing our work in iTeams so I posted several times using it. Some features are helpful but I'm still evaluating whether to use it regularly.
I suspect that we will need to make time during our meetings establish a pattern of using it where ever we do iTeams work.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Students serving and learning

I wrote about the Middle School iTeam serving their school district community:

They are helping staff in the Tech Department to get the Teamboard working properly with their machines and will help peers and teachers to learn how to use it when they find a solution to the challenge.

Zemanta used my writing and found the story linked below. It helps to answer the question that I posed earlier today, How can we help students connect their work with President Obama's invitation to serve in his Inaugural Address. The embedded video includes and inset video of the kind I have been exploring for our Sharing Our Learning Project.

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Illustrating iTeam activities

A small portion of the Cartesian coordinate sy...X-axis, Y-axis via WikipediaI wrote a post in my Elgg blog about how the Middle School iTeam had applied math concepts to understanding our work with the Teamboard, a touch-sensitive whiteboard. I tried to incorporate a picture that Derrick had drawn as part of our deliberations using the drawing feature of the Teamboard. But the process for adding an image to an Elgg post turned out to be confusing at best. I never succeeded in getting the image into the post.

While open-source versions of Web 2.0 tools are attractive for their lower cost, we need them to perform at least well enough that people are easily able to meet their objects without requiring a lot of extra effort in training or troubleshooting. How can we best make users experience closer to the 30 second effort it took to insert this similar image from the store of Creative Commons licensed images at Wikipedia?

Lowering barriers to adding images to posts

Rosa Journaling about PlantingRosa observes rice planting in Saga, Japan
Image by SCSpaeth via Flickr
The Zemanta blogging service helps me reconsider the value of a Flickr account. I established a Flickr account, SCSpaeth, several years ago and added pictures periodically. But I have never made much use of the pictures. While pictures can add to the interest in a blog post, finding images, adding them to the blog and documenting them properly took a lot of effort. So, I only added them when they added enough to compensate for the extra work.

The Zemanta service changes the barriers to using more images. I scanned a photocopy of a paper print of this image so the quality needs to improve. Now, it seems worth the effort.

Networks and tools to support learning

When I first started serving on the MSAD 75 District Service-Learning Leadership Team and the District Technology Committee, the networks were locked down and filtering software blocked many of the sites that I wanted to share with Sally and others on the committees.An example of a social network diagram.Social Network Image via Wikipedia I could not use my computer on the network and I could not share documents via Google Docs or the Zoho online tools because they could not get to the sites. By searching diligently and making selective recommendations, we opened access enough for people to see the value in opening access further. helped us see the value of social networking for communication and collaboration. helped us understand collaborative writing. A Zoho Creator database on Service-Learning Projects helped us understand the potential for distributed data collection.

While the number of people actively using these approaches is still relatively small, the processes are becoming parts of the ways we work together: Service-Learning Team Agenda and Notes. Thanks to Mike, Sally, Kerry, Casey, Lisa and others who have provided the leadership necessary to support these transformations.

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Inaugural Address via Zemanta

President Obama's Inaugural Address speaks to me at many levels. With easy access to the text and to video of the speech, I can select from it again and examine other perspectives. He made references to several kinds of service. But the ones he specifically mentions are not the kinds of service with which middle and high school students identify for themselves.
As we consider the role that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who at this very hour patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages.
We honor them not only because they are the guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service -- a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves.

Washington, D.C.Image via Wikipedia And yet at this moment, a moment that will define a generation, it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all. For as much as government can do, and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child that finally decides our fate.

What will it take to get references to find a picture of a parent reading to a child? A student explaining how to use a computer?
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Zoho Blogs » Creator conversations

I found an interesting extension of Zoho community at its blog today:

The above apps should give you some ideas of how to use Zoho Creator, the friendly tool that lets you create apps within minutes, within your organization. We will see more example apps in another post.Zoho Blogs » Zoho Creator, Dec 2008

I have used Zoho Creator as a tool for distributed data acquisition but in this case I found their use of reblog it! They make it easier than ever to participate in conversations about their offerings.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Moultons: Computers Can, Computers Can't

Jim and Lu Moulton have published a book Computers Can, Computers Can't on Lulu. They urge balancing time spent using computers for the things they support well and time with "Any Century Skills".
Technology will be part of the future for all our children. 21st century skills are all the buzz as schools and families work to prepare their kids for successful lives. But effective use of technology requires a healthy emotional foundation built on rich real-world, people-connected experiences, and those experiences are sadly lacking for too many kids. This book helps families and educators support the development of kids who understand and take advantage of both real-world and virtual experiences, with the real-world ones serving as the foundation.

Lulu, a Web 2.0 publishing service to print individual copies of bound books, provides an easy on ramp for students who want to add published work to their portfolios.

Hagel: With liberty and talent for all

John Hagel writes with J.S. Brown about learning and economic opportunity. With the change in administration, he writes With liberty and talent for all about what kinds of changes we need in policy:

By systematically pursuing public policies helping people get better at what they do, we will move from the zero-sum mindsets dominating our current political debates to a positive sum outlook, where overall rewards increase at an accelerating rate, allowing everyone to share more fully in an expanding pie.

Now, that would be a change worth celebrating. After all, this is not really about something so sterile as talent development. It is ultimately about creating environments where we are all much freer to achieve our true potential.
He focuses on adults but many of the ideas apply to students and teachers, too.

Obama invites us to help

President Obama invites us, iTeam members in MSAD 75, to join with him to help make stronger schools and communities:

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends -- honest and hard work, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism -- these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility -- a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

When he says "every American" he means middle school and high school students, too! Obviously he did not take the time to identify us by name but I'm sure he meant us. So, how will we respond? What will we do?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

iTeams and Obama's Inaugural Address

When I listened to Obama's speech, I heard references throughout that connect to our work on iTeams. He invited all Americans to commit to serve. So, shortly after students finished hearing the speech, I asked them what they heard. They didn't connect what they heard with our efforts with iTeams until we held up a lens together. I really wanted to share selected clips.
After we finished our meeting, I looked for video of the speech. At, I found more than I had anticipated. They provide a very useful tool that includes a transcript of speeches and keywords in the transcript. The transcript must be time-code referenced because the tool supports selection of text in the transcript and the tool generates the embed code for that portion of the video. Obama's speech has not yet been processed. See what it looks like for Clinton's Second Inaugural:

[2009-1-21: Removed the clip because we now have access to President Obama's Address.]

Powerful stuff! I tried to copy the transcript text in order to include it in this post but I could not copy the text.

President Obama Leads Service

The President Elect raises people's awareness of the need for service.
It looks like Barack Obama’s national community service day was a big hit. Reports of thousands of volunteers are appearing in newspaper pages from New York to Philadelphia to San Francisco. Did you participate in your own community?
What can we do to make this a part of our work? We are serving. How can we share it?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Washington: MLK Day 2009

Kerry and Lisa followed the election closely using Twitter and we can follow their experiences of the inauguration here:
It's not the same as being there but they add a personal dimension to the television coverage.Link

MLK Day 2009: Millions make it a day on

A year ago, I wrote a post encouraging people to support the spirit of Dr. King's vision: Seamless Services?: 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".
I served My MLK Day On by sharing my learning about "Billy the Kid" and issues of diversity. Last year, I felt as if I worked that day relatively isolated.

Every thing changed this year. Today, with President Elect Obama's endorsement of the day of service and the inauguration celebrations around the world. I feel part of a much larger community. I have hope that many more days will be days of service.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

iTeam leadership development

Our work in iTeams depends on developing a culture for project-based learning and semi-autonomous small-group activity. I described the strategy in a mail message to tech staff earlier this week:
In my vision of the future for iTeams, I hope we can get to the point where iTeam members can work semi-autonomously on projects for their TechYES certification and beyond. In that way, they may be ready to provide tier-one lab support but not be a burden on you [tech staff] for supervision. For example, I know that other responsibilities take both of you away from the lab so that students will need to return to their AST classrooms.
We are trying to develop that way of working but it is taking some time to get there. Students also differ in the rate at which they are ready to take on such responsibilities. To help them understand our goals, I explained the idea to them this week. Unfortunately, they do not always distinguish between short-term and long-term goals. For example, one student asked me whether to come during AST today. I explained that we hadn't prepared adequately yet. If other iTeam members approach you, I'll leave it to your discretion. E. g. Derrick [an iTeam member] told me that he spoke with you, Erik [MLTI Lead for the Middle School], about coming in at another time to work on getting student machines working with the Teamboard.
Steps forward: Since we still can't use students' laptops with the Teamboard, we have been using a MacBook instead. But the video connectors changed between iBook and MacBook. I didn't have a chance to setup before our last meeting. With no prompting on my part, someone found the right video connector and established the connection so that they could share their projects. Students recognized a need, took initiative to solve the problem and by writing about this event, I hope students will learn to take increasing responsibility.

A step back: Inducting new members challenges our capacity. I'm encouraging peer mentors to practice their leadership by taking responsibility. When a new member arrived at our last meeting, however, everyone wanted someone else to take responsibility. Their response reminded me of the Three Stooges. I wish I had a camera ready to capture that impasse but I learned how to use "comic book" effects in Photo Booth by simulating the response. But it also reminds us that we need to get official permission from students' parents or guardians to share photos of their work on iTeams.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Portfolios in Reflective Practice

Sunday, December 03, 2006 #
Portfolios in reflective practice

Adam is a photographer. I learned about his work because he attended high school with my daughter. One day, she and I were talking about high school students who do amazing work outside of school and document it in publicly accessible venues. She told me about Adam's portfolio of photos and feedback that he was getting from sources outside of school. She asked him for the web address and sent it to me. I agree with her brief assessment of his work.

They graduated last spring and have started their first year of college. He continues to take photographs and add them to the portfolio he started in high school. The following entry from his portfolio illustrates how he uses it in reflective practice:

Book 2 by ~JustAskshorte on deviantART

So this is my second book. The idea was to put myself in a situation I was relatively uncomfortable in and allow myself to expand my photo ideas. The final process was finding random strangers on the street, give them my camera, and have them direct me into a pose..this is what I came up with; it reminds me of photos someone used to take of me.
Note: Adam gave permission to use his photograph and reflection in this post.

In addition to his reflective self-assessment, he also solicits assessment from a community of photographers. Note that Adam provided the motivation and drive to get the feedback he wanted to improve his photographs and portfolio. He took the bold step of soliciting feedback from a nationally known professional who's work he admired. In one sample, an established photographer sent him more than a page of tips and specific critique and suggestions for improving his work in an email message. One of Adam's favorite subjects is musical performers; the assessor give feedback in that context.

>> It's nice to hear from you. If it would be an honor
>> how can I say no to such a request!? The first thing
>> I suggest is you get your own official email with
>> your website. That makes you look and feel legit
>> right off the back. Well, you are obviously getting
>> credentialed for big named bands and that is most of
>> the battle. In this day in age it's not always that
>> easy to even get a photo pass. It's the whole
>> can I get experience if I can't get
>> access. But that doesn't seem to be an issue for you
>> so wonderful, congrats.

The assessor continues with questions to clarify Adam's practice and then proposes specific changes to the portfolio organization.

>> I suggest you keep doing
>> what you are doing. Are you shooting film? You may
>> want to advance into the digital arena if you
>> haven't already. Are you actually using that medium
>> format camera or is that just a prop on your
>> website? Also consider separating your images by
>> category- Concert, Portrait, etc. - Enough website
>> stuff.

The assessor then continues with discipline specific analysis of several of Adam's photos.

>> Now as far as the concert shots, work on your
>> sharpness, not cutting off hands, things like that
>> are good things to concentrate on and acquire
>> discipline. There's no right or wrong ways to do
>> things but there are some guidelines. Not sure what
>> the shot of the drum kit is all about. The exposure
>> & colors are brilliant but where's the drummer!?
>> Things like that. You need to decide what your great
>> images are and only place them on your website. What
>> you have is very nice, it needs some fine tuning
>> though. Is that drum shot one of them? You tell me!?

At the end of the paragraph above, assessor urges Adam to select his "best" work and remove others from his portfolio. The assessor focuses on the marketing value of Adam's portfolio. It seems to me that Adam has another idea for this portfolio. He has not culled his portfolio for only the best but has retained a representative sample of his work. I find Adam's portfolio much more interesting than the marketing approach because it shows the development of his work over time. Adam's choice gives him the opportunity to reflect on his development as a photographer. He will have plenty of opportunities in the future to create a professional portfolio and I anticipate it will be even stronger as a result of his work on this one.

>> It works perfectly, wonderful job. The B&W one is
>> great as well. I might have liked it a bit wider but
>> that's just nitpicking really. The hand on the
>> guitar is a little lost but still works for what you
>> need it to, His smile is a great capture. These are
>> the things I pay attention to as much as I can.
>> Sometimes you get what you get with the situation
>> and moments that are before you, and like what you
>> said before about the sub-par equipment, you are
>> doing what you can. Personally the Interpol shot on
>> that page doesn't work for me. The lighting has
>> great potential and it is a cool artsy shot but it
>> just isn't happening for me.

The assessor even identifies shots that don't work and ends with a sample of his own work to illustrate some of the earlier points.

>> Here's a ______ shot
>> I did over the summer where I played with the
>> lighting and to me it works, check it out. I
>> understand what's going on in the shot. Also be
>> careful of mics. Try to not have them look like they
>> are being hit in the head with them, other than that
>> you are working your way into a career.
>> So there ya are. Just keep doing what you are doing,
>> what you have so far is quite impressive. Please
>> keep in contact, I want to check in with what you
>> are doing.

Thanks to Adam and the assessor for their contributions to our understanding of authentic reflective assessment. As a practical matter, I'd prefer to see a greater emphasis on self and peer assessment because it will build stronger communities.
posted @ 4:28 PM |
Update: I originally wrote this at, a blogging tool sponsored by the Center for Teaching Learning and Technology as part of its action research projects. CTLT decided that it could use its limited resources better by outsourcing blog hosting. This effort to recreate earlier work is one of the costs associated with early adoption.

Digital Portfolios and Learning

I wrote about Adam and his portfolio in a blog that no longer exists. I wanted to share that post with Emily to support her development of a portfolio. This post will try to fill the gap.

Book 2 by ~JustAskshorte on deviantART

Adam comments:
So this is my second book. The idea was to put myself in a situation I was relatively uncomfortable in and allow myself to expand my photo ideas. The final process was finding random strangers on the street, give them my camera, and have them direct me into a pose..this is what I came up with; it reminds me of photos someone used to take of me.