Wednesday, February 25, 2009

President Obama recognizes student intiative

The President delivers the annual State of the...The President speaks to congress
via Wikipedia

After President Obama's Inaugural Address, I spoke with iTeam members and wrote about the connections of our iTeam work to his messages. Last night, President Obama addressed a joint session of Congress and reinforced one of the ideas of the discussions with iTeam members. Identify things that need to be done and take initiative to do them or recruit others to help you do them. Here, he shares the story of a student who took the initiative to recruit the President's help:

And I think about Ty'Sheoma Bethea, the young girl from that school I visited in Dillon, South Carolina - a place where the ceilings leak, the paint peels off the walls, and they have to stop teaching six times a day because the train barrels by their classroom. She has been told that her school is hopeless, but the other day after class she went to the public library and typed up a letter to the people sitting in this room. She even asked her principal for the money to buy a stamp. The letter asks us for help, and says: "We are just students trying to become lawyers, doctors, congressmen like yourself and one day president, so we can make a change to not just the state of South Carolina but also the world. We are not quitters."

We are not quitters.

These words and these stories tell us something about the spirit of the people who sent us here. They tell us that even in the most trying times, amid the most difficult circumstances, there is a generosity, a resilience, a decency and a determination that perseveres; a willingness to take responsibility for our future and for posterity.

What will we do to identify needs and take the initiative to do them and recruit help from others that can assist?

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tech Studios- places for iTeam work

The Carnegie Foundation for the Improvement of Teaching and Learning held a conference entitled "Tinkering as a mode of knowledge production in a digital age" and captured perspectives of several speakers on video. John Seeley Brown describes a new world for learning.

Tinkering as a Mode of Knowledge Production in a Digital Age: John Seely Brown from carnegie commons on Vimeo.
Here are some key points (load the whole video and then use the sider to go to the indicated minutes:seconds):
  • 0:40: "Play with creating knowledge ..."
  • 1:20: "Create, reflect and share".
  • 1:35: "Peer-based learning communities..."
  • 2:33: "How do we construct an environment where we are constantly learning and teaching eachother?"
  • 4:50: "The architectural studio ... all work in progress is made public" (ideas similar to Donald Schon's Reflective Practitioner.
  • 7:00: "Technologies- Distributed communities of practice ..."
  • 8:35: "Put my stamp on something and then pass it back to the community ..."
  • 9:40: "Identity gets constructed in how I have participated in these networked communities..."
We watched snippets of this clip during our last iTeam meeting. Students clearly recognized that Brown was describing the process that they are helping to develop.

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Learning educational entrepreneurship

Micon wind turbine, Dithmarschen.Image via Wikipedia

Farmington's Regional Technology Center has created the first accredited program in composite technologies as described in the following news article. What can we learn from this example of educational entrepreneurship? It seems as if the drive for change has come from John MacDonald, a teacher at the Center. He seems to have built from some prior experience with the technology. He recognized the opportunity and marshaled support for development of the comprehensive program. He seems to have developed visions of opportunities for his students and their school. Note that Harbor Technologies in Brunswick and Custom Composite Technologies in Bath, two innovative employers, are engaged supporters of the program despite the more than 60 miles that separate the program and the businesses.
In Farmington, MSAD 9's Foster Regional Applied Technology Center is the first Maine school to develop a state-accredited program in high-performance composite technologies. After years of teaching short units to his technology and pre-engineering classes, John MacDonald decided to make the technology a complete program.

"My goal is to provide a way for students to become skilled in this growing industry," MacDonald said. "At the same time, we can plant the seed for future entrepreneurial ventures."

The Maine Technology Institute gave him a $30,000 grant with the stipulation that FRATC must raise matching funds from in-kind donations of materials and expertise. MacDonald's grant funding launched the renovation of the school's 40-year-old converted industrial-arts lab. Old wiring, poor air quality, inefficient shop layout, and outdated equipment had to go. He replaced outdated sanding devices with dustless sanders and collectors, added vacuum infusion and pressure molding stations, a freezer, and a curing oven. He hasn't looked back.
"Six of my eight students in my 2007 class have continued their education in the composites field." he said. "Ten students completed the training in 2008, and I have a full class enrolled for the next year."
"I found Mr. Macdonald's composites program and facilities to be a classic example of educational entrepreneurship," he said. "What seems to make this program so unique is the innovative combination of basic educational elements, technical skill exercises, and 'adult-style' mentoring."
What can we do to help make this program less unique? How can we develop our own examples of educational entrepreneurship so that they become the norm rather than the exception?

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Digital awareness- info sharing

Invite Friends To Facebook ConnectImage by SCSpaeth via Flickr

MSAD 75 technology leaders are helping students and staff understand better practices for use of social networking sites like Facebook. Students seem to have broadly adopted recommended practices on restricting the display profile information. However, it seems to me that we have more work to do on helping ourselves and our students to understand another aspect of information sharing.

Facebook makes it possible for 3rd party application developers to tap into Facebook tools and data to provide new and innovative services: Facebook Apps. They run the range from trivial to serious (Facebook's own developer app that supports the development of other's apps). I suspect that many students choose to sign up for third party apps. I also suspect that students don't understand some of the implications of making these choices. Facebook provides information about what is shared in the following terms statement that users "accept" before they get access to an application:
(a) Information That May Be Provided to Developers. In order to allow you to use and participate in Platform Applications created by Developers ("Developer Applications"), Facebook may from time to time provide Developers access to the following information (collectively, the "Facebook Site Information"): ...

(b) Examples of Facebook Site Information. The Facebook Site Information may include, without limitation, the following information, to the extent visible on the Facebook Site: your name, your profile picture, your gender, your birthday, your hometown location (city/state/country), your current location (city/state/country), your political view, your activities, your interests, your musical preferences, television shows in which you are interested, movies in which you are interested, books in which you are interested, your favorite quotes, the text of your "About Me" section, your relationship status, your dating interests, your relationship interests, your summer plans, your Facebook user network affiliations, your education history, your work history, your course information, copies of photos in your Facebook Site photo albums, metadata associated with your Facebook Site photo albums (e.g., time of upload, album name, comments on your photos, etc.), the total number of messages sent and/or received by you, the total number of unread messages in your Facebook in-box, the total number of "pokes" you have sent and/or received, the total number of wall posts on your Wall™, a list of user IDs mapped to your Facebook friends, your social timeline, and events associated with your Facebook profile. user_terms
While Facebook restricts access to specific pieces of information and encourages users to control which information can be accessed, I think that we need to understand this aspect of social networking help ourselves and our students become better digital citizens.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Prototyping with Facebook Connect

Teachers and administrators have been discussing ways to build on the experience of our Digital Native

Facebook Connect LocalImage by SCSpaeth aka k6 via Flickr

students and help them understand issues of digital citizenship. As a district, we have committed ourselves to expanding our use of Web 2.0 tools to support learning and collaboration of students, teachers and administrators. iTeams are prototyping new uses. For example, we have been using a web-based form to collect Activity Logs for iTeams. Middle school iTeam members are using it in some exciting ways: I learned of a spontaneous student-initiated iTeam meeting because they reported it using the Activity Log. So, the process shows great promise but to date, they only use it intermittently. Members also check email at relatively low frequency. But I discovered recently that some students respond to Facebook messages much more reliably than email. I wondered whether we might tap into their engagement with Facebook.

Facebook supports integration of their tools into App providers' sites. Facebook developers have developed a demo application that illustrates some of the potential of this approach. Their app collects running log entries of app users. The Run Around demo also contains several of the elements that Sally and I have discussed. I wondered whether we could prototype the app we have discussed but I know that such development can be time-consuming. I encouraged a group of Stanford students to take an interest in the idea as a project for an e-Challenge project, a social business-plan competition. But they have not responded to my queries. So, what can we do to explore this approach? In the long-run, I hope that iTeam members will be able to take on such a project but we need more time and capacity development.

Since a Facebook development team has developed and tested this app, the learning curve for cloning their app is less demanding than creating an app from scratch. This approach is similar to the process that led to the rapid growth of the Internet in the 90's: copy an html page and revise it to meet your need. Since the approach worked for me during that period, I decided to commit a few hours to trying again with this new capacity.

The screenshot at the top of this entry shows FB tools running on a local host server. While it will require more effort to refine, I got it working with a relatively modest effort on my part. I hope the prototype will help us explain the ideas to colleagues who are less familiar with the abstract ideas and learn better from concrete examples. When we get additional supporters, we can put together the team required to go beyond a simple prototype.

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Tech and Education: It's not rocket science- it's harder

Apollo Soyuz Test Project Soyuz booster on lau...Image via Wikipedia

Sally Loughlin recently recommended Opening Up Education: The collective advancement of education through open technology, open content, and open knowledge by Iyoshi and Kumar (2008). John Seeley Brown endorses the concepts by writing a compelling preface.

Diana Laurillard struck a responsive chord for our work in both the university and the district. She acknowledges in her chapter, Open Teaching: the key to sustainable and effective open education, that "Technology is never the whole solution."
Using technology to improve education is not rocket science. It's much, much harder than that. Change in education is not a matter of a small number of extremely highly educated people moving a collection of obedient atoms form one place to another. It is about large numbers of partially trained people moving minds; millions of them. (p. 320)
The Carnegie Foundation supports open access to two online versions of this book under a Creative Commons License: pdf and ipaper. In providing this access, the authors and publishers have removed a barrier to using this resource for making required changes. What will we do to expand and extend the discussions and actions?

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Stanford Social eChallenge Guidelines

Stanford University runs business plan competitions. The Social e-Challenge is geared toward social entrepreneurship. I suspect that Richard and his team that initiated discussions in the Future of Education network were preparing for this challenge. I wrote to Richard to verify this assumption but did not get a reply.

The university and business communities support students in various ways. These guidelines for proposal development illustrate one pedagogically sound support. Note that they include exemplars of successful submissions.

Executive Summary Guidelines

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Stanford University students want our advice

Monitoring and Control project activitiesImage via Wikipedia

Richard, a Stanford University undergraduate student, has joined the Future of Education, a professional learning network, and asks for advice about technology support for teachers. Richard is one of four Stanford students who have formed a group (class project?) to develop useful technology tools for teachers. Ric Barline and other teachers have responded to Richard's request for assistance. I am excited to see this distributed collaboration draw on complementary knowledge, skills and experience, so I add to the discussion:

I second Ric Barline's recommendations and appreciate the thought he has given to the broad range of Best Practice Strategies. I especially value his endorsement of project-based learning:
Project-Based Learning
The benefits of in-depth investigation of real-world topics make this approach ideal for acquiring twenty-first-century skills.
• Project-based learning and technology can go hand in hand. Technology provides the perfect avenue for students to organize and deliver projects. From the research to the delivery, real-world skills can be incorporated with the use of technology.[22] Unfortunately, the emphasis on standardized testing and state standards has caused many schools to drop their efforts to utilize technology in the classroom. Drill and practice, test preparation, direct instruction with a scripted text and pressure to meet all standards has caused teachers to abandon technology-rich projects and assignments.
I work as the iTeams Advisor in a middle school that has been part of the Maine Learning Technology Initiative since its inception (Seven years of one-to-one computing for all Maine 7th and 8th grade students). While teachers may want to use such strategies, project management can be daunting. We use strategies based in part on the TechYES and GenYES models, exemplary evidence-based programs. Boss and Krauss in Reinventing Project-Based Learning and their ReinventingPBL blog also provide useful strategies.

At the high school level, we are using Facebook and Ning to build from students' prior social networking skills and experience to establish learning networks. But at middle school and elementary schools we are constrained by legal and community standards. There, we are investigating Elgg, an open source social network over which we can maintain better control. Unfortunately, Elgg lacks some of the features that would enhance its value for support of learning.

Finally, how can we use these ideas to improve learning for all our students? Suzie Boss describes Bill strickland's approach:
In "Passing Empowerment Down through the Arts," in the current issue of Edutopia, Bill Strickland tells me about the journey he began 40 years ago when an art teacher changed his life. He's been changing lives ever since, first in his hometown of Pittsburgh, Pa., and now in other communities across the country (and beyond). His unique vision combines arts and mentoring to keep young people engaged in learning, plus high-powered job training so adults can lift their families out of poverty. It's a potent formula for creating hope in the neighborhoods that need it most.

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Improving iTeam Activity Logs

Mi sistema GTD en Google DocsMi sistema GTD en Google Docs
by Francesc Esteve via Flickr

Two iTeam members have recently acquired mobile devices. Since such devices seem to have great potential to support learning (Kolb, 2008 Toys to Tools: Connecting Student Cell Phones to Education), we are encouraging team members to explore and share what they are learning. For example, a member's use during a student initiated iTeam meeting lead to the exemplary discussion of preparation for the MLTI Conference that three members captured on video earlier this week.

One member has been trying to develop a project based on his device. He looked at the app that makes an iTouch into a remote for Keynote presentations. But he discovered it requires newest version of Keynote. Then, Erik encouraged him to look at the iTouch app development site to see whether he could develop a simple app. That seems like a very challenging project.

Google just announced a new feature for mobile access to its Spreadsheets:
Official Google Docs Blog: Add, edit, sort, and filter: Improved mobile access to spreadsheets: "Add, edit, sort, and filter: Improved mobile access to spreadsheets
Friday, February 13, 2009 6:30 AM
Over a year ago, we enabled view-only access to docs from mobile devices. This has come in handy for me because I use Google Docs spreadsheets to keep track of a lot of nerdy and not-so-nerdy things in my life. I've often found myself wanting to access my spreadsheet data on the go, when I'm not near a computer.

Today, I'm happy to announce that we've made mobile access even better by adding new capabilities with List View for spreadsheets. You can quickly view, edit, sort, and filter your spreadsheets on a variety of mobile devices including Android-powered devices like the T-Mobile G1, the iPhone and iPod touch, and the Nokia S60."
The member has been entering his iTeam activities to our Log using his device. So, this new capacity for the tools we are using may make it a more appropriate project for him. It may also serve to remind all of us to use and improve our Activity Log entries. I'll send the link to this post to him and ask if he wants to develop a project based on his prior experience and these resources that Google provides.

Note: The image in this post illustrates use of Google Docs to support the work management strategy called Getting Things Done (GTD). Kerry Gallivan has been looking at it as a way to support our activities.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

MLTI Teacher Leader Professional Development

When I searched for the MLTI Student Conference information, I found a related page which describes an effort to provide capacity-building professional development for teacher leaders. Mt. Ararat Middle School and Mt. Ararat High School are both on the drop-down list of participating schools. Who are the Teacher Leaders in MSAD 75 who will participate in this program? What can we do to support their participation and transfer of the ideas back into the District?

MLTI Teacher Leader 2008-09
Online Workshop Information

As presented at the Fall Leadership meetings, the MLTI Team is committed to support the integration of educational technology in MLTI schools through two models: Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPCK) and Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition (SAMR).

We believe that these are useful and powerful models for guiding effective teaching and learning in the 21st Century. As an MLTI Teacher Leader, you have an opportunity to examine the role of these models in your own school’s goals, initiatives, and professional development priorities.

As outlined in this year’s Teacher Leader Agreement Form, your participation in an online workshop is a requirement for qualifying for the MLTI Teacher Leader stipend. MLTI Staff have developed a four-week capacity-building professional development program. ...
When I searched on "SAMR" to verify that I understood that model, I found a Gary Ackerman's post at the NELMS blog about his synopsis and application of the concept to his situation. I enjoyed seeing who played an important role in disseminating this idea to teacher leaders in other districts:
At the Emerging Tech Summit back in January, our keynote speaker (Sally Loughlin, an assistant superintendent from Maine) mentioned the SAMR model of technology integration that was developed a little over 5 years ago by Dr. Ruben Puentedura.

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Monday, February 9, 2009

MLTI Conference: May 29, 2009 at UMaine Orono

iTeams: Let's start planning and preparing to present some of our work at the annual Maine Learning Technology Initiative Conference. For more information, read '09 Student Tech Team Conference. They invite a focus on Science, Technology, Engineering or Math but let's try to find a way to integrate across more areas.

MLTI Student Tech Team Conference
Friday May 29, 2009
'09 Focus: M-STEM
(Maine Learners, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)
  • Engaging University of Maine Faculty and Students, ACTEM Members, MLTI Students, and MLTI Educators in a Partnership for Learning
  • Following the success last year, the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at UMaine will be donating more $1000 Scholarships for Middle School Students!

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Opportunities for iTeam contributions

InnovationImage via Wikipedia

In Born Digital, Palfrey and Gasser identify several constituencies and suggest some steps that they can take to address the issues raised in their work. In our iTeams work, students can contribute as they describe here:
In terms of the opportunities that we pointed to - for innovation, learning, and activism - Digital Natives just need to do the things we've seen a few of them doing, to spread the word virally among their peers as to what's possible. We've pointed to examples of a few extraordinary young people doing very cool things. The real promise lies in whether these few will become many. (Palfrey and Gasser, 2008 p. 278-279)
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Friday, February 6, 2009

Understanding MSAD 75's Digital Natives

On Friday, February 13, 2009 MSAD 75 teachers and administrators will participate in professional development. The district leaders have asked that some time be devoted to developing understanding of our digitally oriented students.

District leaders, principals and the District Technology committee are facilitating discussion of Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives by John Palfrey and Urs Gasser. In the chapter on safety, they describe constructive efforts to improve safety. They specifically identify an exemplary use of student's video that addresses some of the issues:
get it right: Tap into - and celebrate - the creativity of Digital Natives (p. 105)
How can can we tap into the creativity and engagement of iTeam members to help teachers and administrators understand their digitally oriented students? Would discussions of digital identity, social networking, and other issues change if students also participated?

Note: The StaySafe site has changed since Palfrey and Gasser wrote their description. It seems as if the video has been removed from the StaySafe site and other venues. This is a more complete description of the contribution:

"A Junior High Student from Utah Makes a Film and a Difference. salutes Trevor, a 14-year old student from Utah. He is proof that one person, no matter his or her age, can make a difference. He not only stars in his short film Predator, but he also wrote and directed it! In the film, Trevor depicts the dangers of online predators - typically adults posing as younger school aged kids - who lie and trick you into believing they are someone else. Whether you are a student, educator, parent, law enforcement, or community leader, we all need to be aware of the risks of online predators.Trevor worked with his school, and even cast his real life principal as his movie kidnapper. In addition, he made arrangements with the American Fork Police Department to provide vehicles and officers for the shooting of this film." Source

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Half an Hour: Should All Learning Professionals be Blogging?

Collateral Damage Affinity GroupColorado Communities for Justice and Peace via Wikipedia

Stephen Downes makes the case for one of the roles I model in the district:
Half an Hour: Should All Learning Professionals be Blogging?: "the difference represented in the shift from traditional classroom based learning and network learning. The idea of the latter is that learning occurs when the learner immerses him or herself in a community of pratice, learning by performing authentic tasks, learning by interacting with and becoming a member of the community.

But this only works if the members of the community share. It only works if they are prepared to make talking about what they are doing a part of doing what they are doing. As Arruda points out, there are good reasons why they should do this. But I would add, it's the only real way to effectively incorporate large numbers of new members into the practice. By doing and showing, practitioners can as effectively teach as teachers teach by telling (indeed, I would argue more effectively). And they can do it without having to establish a special infrastructure and institution."
How can we expand the practice? Downes identifies one of the barriers is people's perception of lack of time for an add-on. He identifies a solution- substitute more effective practice:
What needs to happen is that the normal note-taking that happens in the meeting - whether by an official recorder or by attendees (or, ideally, both) becomes the blog. The process of having the meeting is the process of creating the post. The result is that the creation of the blog post takes no extra time, and so both the group leader and other staff save a lot of time.
How will we change our practices? Terry Hanna and I experimented with this approach using the District's learning network in Elgg at the last Service-Learning Leadership Team meeting.
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