Directing the Rider

Direct 1

At our October Faculty Meeting I gave a presentation entitled “Motivating the Elephant” based on the book Switch by the Heath Brothers. See this post for that presentation. At our next faculty meeting, my presentation will be on Directing the Rider which is the second strategy for preparing an organization for a switch. The feedback from my first presentation was mixed in that some colleagues felt that they were doing all they could with what they had to work with while others had concerns that a decision had been made without any discussion. I am attempting to address the first concern with the first slide in the presentation as I was not talking about teachers not doing enough, rather I was talking about the need of our organization to do more. We teachers are often too willing to attach messages to ourselves instead of seeing them as institutional. I can not fully address the decision being made as I do not have all of the information. My sense is that the decision is very much in flux as a group of teachers are traveling next week to Webb School in Knoxville TN to see that school’s iPad deployment. Another school they will visit is Girls Preparatory School in Chattanooga TN which recently switched from Windows Tablets to MacBook Airs. Teachers and administrators are going to learn how these two schools utilize the devices in their learning community. Our Middle School Director, Jon Meredith, French Teacher, Teresa Engebretsen, Algebra and Pre-Algebra Teacher, Gib Fitzpatrick, and Sixth Grade Language Arts Teacher Patti Donnelly are part of the group. Patti is also one of the two teachers testing out laptops and iPads with their students. I look forward to hearing what they have learned and how it will help our school determine if we want a 1 to 1 deployment of a student device.

I believe my presentation on Monday will help address some of the concerns raised and move the conversation to helping us all use what we presently have available in addition to new ideas and strategies for learning in this modern era. I will be using a Google Presentation but recorded this VoiceThread version ahead of time for colleagues who cannot attend the meeting on Monday.


Student Back Channel

Computer Screens


Image: ‘Backchannel, from the Back of the Room’


Ryan has done more solid work with the backchannel resources. This just appeared in the Class of 16 Students FirstClass Conference. What makes a student to want to share like this? Is it built into the DNA of our students to share? How do we foster more of this sharing so that all students are involved in creation, curation, and publication? How do we make sure teachers are harvesting this back channel?

One way to do all of this is to bring it to light and promote it I believe. Many teachers have created Moodle Discussion Forums for this harvesting as it helps everyone. Of course, there are some who are concerned with quality and fear the backchannel resources could be erroneous. Which is better, nothing or somethings that may need to have the group correct?

Hey guys,

In case you haven’t noticed, I have posted lots and lots of personal glossary words for Kanoy science! If you don’t think you have a complete Personal Glossary #3 list so far, then check it out! (You may have to already be logged onto Moodle for the link to work)

Also, apply to my Quizlet group, “Cavaliers”! We have lots of History and Spanish sets along with a few LA ones. However, we don’t have very many French sets. I recommend Ryan St_____s’s group, “French 7 Engebretsen” for French sets.


French 7 Engebretsen:

Science 7 Kanoy:


Ryan S.


When the Learning Seeds Escape the Walled Garden

dandelion in the wind

‘Dandelion in the wind’

Having gardened for many years, I know how tough it can be to contain all of the plants inside of my garden area. Learning and teaching inside of a walled garden like our Moodle has some of the same limitations. Sometimes, the learning needs to escape into the world’s garden. I have worked with Tina Bessias on many wonderful projects and for many years we conducted workshops together for teachers at our school. She has always been a teacher who looked to challenge both herself and her students with work that could have meaning after the class was over. I was excited to hear that she was also a NCAIS Master Teacher. She clearly is one and I think we will both benefit from the challenges we face with becoming one of the first group of Master Teachers. Her Master Teacher project was about Immigrants and Interviews. A neat idea and one that I thought her students would both enjoy while also being challenged.

I received a very nice message, (which prompte this post) from Tina. She granted me permission to post it here as I liked how she included the earlier work her students had done with me as a reason for some of the success of the project.

I took six 9th graders to the ICG Conference at Carolina Friends School on Thursday.  Together, we presented our project to a small but engaged audience.  Mostly, I let the students do it, and I wish you could have seen them.  Nobody in the audience had used Moodle or created wikis before, and it was amazing to see the students’ work through their eyes.  They made seamless transitions among discussion forums, Garage Band, photo editors, wiki templates, and the concepts of the project–the variety of experiences they heard about from immigrants, the enthusiasm with which they referenced “my immigrant”…  It was a beautiful thing.  And throughout the project, they have mentioned and built on what they learned in Middle School.

I responded thusly,

WOW! What a Wonderful World View Student Centered project! I have been poking around in your course and Wiki and am awed by what you were able to harness and produce. I am also proud of what those students were able to create and do and am glad that my teaching laid a foundation. Too often, I wonder if what I do continues to be nurtured. Clearly, this project represents a prime example of the roles of a 21st Century teacher and learner.

Tina is a heavy Moodle user at the Upper School as her courses contain most of the modules that are available for use in classes. She has used the wiki in Moodle for many years even though most Moodle users agree, it is not very good. Moodle 2.0 has a much better, built from the ground up wiki which we will hopefully be able to use next school year. What Tina has accomplish with her project is to do the MESSY teaching and learning aspects of her project inside the walled garden of our Moodle. Only students and teachers can access it which limits projects living outside of a classroom or our Moodle. This is a classic use for a walled garden with 9th grade students. This is a picture of her Moodle tools used in the construction of the project. She used links, wikis, discussion forums and PDFs to guide the project. Some are active and some are grayed out as they are no longer available to students.

World Literature Bessias

I am excited to attend the presentation to the Durham Academy community on April 3, 2011 at 4:00 PM to share the learning and work of these learners and immigrants. To see more of the learning that lives in the garden outside the walled garden, visit The World in Our Midst.

Immigrant Interviews  home