Culture Eats Everything

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I have been reading and listening to Will Richardson for many years.  I have a copy of his 2006 edition Blogs, Wikis, and Podcasts which shaped my use of these tools.  I was lucky enough to meet Will when he spoke at our school a few years ago. I consider him to be a first level mentor.  He has been at the idea of rethinking education for a long time. He is now working with Bruce Dixon at Modern Learners where they do a podcast. I loved this episode as it resonated with me. Will coined the term “change in a vacuum” to highlight how schools work at small projects hoping to influence change and impact the culture of the school. As the image shows, the best laid strategy is eaten by culture every day. I know this to be true as I have helped feed it over the years. Granted, some of my lone nut ideas deserved to be eaten as they were poorly thought out or just nuts. Many of my ideas, like portfolios, blogging, collaborative and creative projects, teaching kids to learn how to use their voice and their face, etc .. were just too far out of the norms of the school’s culture. This is not a judgement about the school’s culture, as I am part of the very culture. I am eternally grateful that I get to try out many of my ideas over the years.

The podcast  Will and Bruce did on Culture of Change #24 resonated with me especially the term that Will threw out.  Will and Bruce discuss the article on Fast Company about how Satya Nadella’s was able to bring change to Microsoft.

This is a great quote from the Fast Company article: “He has inspired the company’s 124,000 employees to embrace what he calls “learn-it-all” curiosity (as opposed to what he describes as Microsoft’s historical know-it-all bent) that in turn has inspired developers and customers—and investors—to engage with the company in new, more modern ways”.

It is well worth a listen and in fact, I suggest you subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. If you do not subscribe to podcasts, why not?

Launching MS Studios – Student Voices-Saying No is Not an Option

DAPodcasting MS Studiossmaller 20130405 080911 pngA group of teachers who are also members of the Middle School iTeam which supports our school’s iPad Learning Program took an Atomic Learning Catalyst Course on Going Mobile. During this coursework we collaborated with each other and teachers from around the country. We had a guest instructor, Brad Flickinger, one evening who introduced us to how his students produce KBOB Studios which are news, movies and other media projects with a few iPads. I have long wanted to have  a student voice for news and thoughts but was not quite sure how to get it going since I would need to find time outside of the “normal” class structure.

I looked up how he Brad was doing it at his school and kept thinking on how to weave it into our school. Then I got this message. How could I say no even though I had not yet figured out all of the details? We have motivated students with a passion to produce and all they need is an adult. I can do that and if I look at the long view this is the spark I have needed to say yes even though I have more then enough on my plate.

Dear Mr. Schaefer,
I heard that the teachers just finished taking a class where a school had a website that students could post podcasts to. I also heard that you were interested In bringing that concept to DA. The student body is in full support of your idea, we actually came up with the same one. I guess great minds think alike. There is a handful of us (not including myself) who already consider themselves online DJs. A few have volunteered to manage the site and even create a blog to go with it! Kids have volunteered to advertise and talk about the concept during community meeting as well (that’s the group I’m in). Ashley is considering proposing it to the student council as well. As this idea spreads across the school more and more people want to become a part of it. We have the strength in numbers, as well as passionate workers. Now all we need is technological talent, adult supervision and a faculty member that is willing to invest in this project and cares about it just as much as we do. Will you help us?
-Yaa B.

We have met about 3 times with me although I know they meet without me to discuss ideas. Two students created logos, one is above which will be merged with a new model since we now have a name and the other logo had good features we want to include. We decided to start with audio as it is easier to produce although we hope to grow it into having videos and a blog.

I felt it would be important to automate as much of the production as possible since there are many newsworthy events that happen that can simply be recorded. I checked out SoundCloud and Audioboo and decided on Audioboo as it has a nice app and will allow some customization as well as serve as our audio host for the podcasting part of MS Studios.

To prove the concept I recorded the morning announcements although I missed timed it so I did not get the start. Students will be better at this in time.

Thank you Yaa, Joseph, Sean, Ashley, Isabella, Jack, and Alayah for the efforts you are putting forth to get MS Studios and my hope off the ground.

Summer Camps and Audio Boo

I am in the middle of doing the two summer camps I started last year. Lego Mindstorms and Scratch with some Alice. Lego has been full with this week’s camp having 21 campers. Check out the wiki for more information and pictures.

I have also started testing out Audio Boo on my iPod Touch. It is a free application for the iPod or iPhone that allows recording and posting to a web site. I think it is an interesting concept and wonder how teachers might use it with their Moodle courses. There could be an RSS of audio recorded by the teacher showing up in their Moodle course. Check mine out at DigitalKarl

Learning Projects from the MS Digital Learning Labs

In the last month, the digital learning labs have been a very busy place for students and teachers. Early May found eighth grade students working with Mrs. Birgel and Ms. Kim Arrington (Artist-in-Residence) as we worked with students on multimedia projects based on The Life of Pi book they had read. Students created ID Poems and Vox Pops using many software and hardware tools.

As this creative project came to a close, students in Sr. Glass and Sra. Harrell’s 6th grade Spanish classes learned about one of Spain’s most famous poets and playwrights, Federico García Lorca. The culmination of the unit was for the students to create a podcast on his poem, “Canción del jinete”. In the podcast, they recite and illustrate the poem with images that they believe capture the poem’s essence.

This week, Mrs. Hall’s 5th grade students finished their 20th Century History Podcasts which began 3 weeks ago in the Library with Mrs. Longee. Students worked in teams to research and write scripts (reports) to record. Images were used to illustrate their reports along with proper citation.

These projects represent a wonderful illustration of the digital learning that can happen with the software and hardware tools we have available today. As I told the students in each class though, without a script or report, all you have is dead air. Research, writing, recording, illustrating, citing, and preparing products that will live outside of Durham Academy are central to providing a 21st Century learning experience. The critical element of engagement was present in all students as they worked to create their masterpiece. Bravo to all!

All projects and many others are available at

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When the Shelf is Emptied and Learning Leaps

In February I wrote about shelf technology where I lamented the lack of integration of many of the tools we have at the ready for our students. I have had a wonderful week working with Kate Birgel, (8th grade Language Arts) and Kim Arrington (Artist-in-Residence) as we worked with students on multimedia projects based on The Life of Pi book they had read.

We used all of the “shelf technology” plus some last minute software tools that solved a need we discovered we had.


ID Poems: Check them out at our Digital Locker
Write a poem that communicates who you are and how you have transformed as Pi transforms.

* What’s in your name? You may look up the origin of your name to add to this activity.
* What does your name mean to you?
* What power do names hold?

Construct your poem as follows:
I am _____________
I am Favorite Animal
I am Favorite Candy
I am Favorite Color
I am Favorite Season
I am Favorite Clothing
I am like Pi….
My Favorite Quote
Name Meaning


Vox Pops: Check them out at our Digital Locker
Collectively the groups came up with at least 3 questions about one of the themes in the book. They then took turns recording each member’s response to the question. These are recorded, edited, and uploaded. In addition to audio Vox Pops, students documented the process with video cameras.

Themes for Vox Pops

* Storytelling
* Find Self
* Man vs. Nature
* Human Relationships
* God/Religion
* Man’s Inherent Nature
* Man’s will to live
* Good vs. Evil
* Rebirth

I am a proud and grateful teacher and happy that we had the shelves stocked.

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iPod Mobile Learning Lab

I am ready to roll out the Lower School iPod Learning Lab after getting the TRON-X for iPod case and the 15 unit Parasync iPod dock both are from Parat Solutions. I am excited to get these in the hands of our teachers and students. It has taken longer then I had hoped to get the parts assembled but we have a setup that should work well.

This photo shows the case and the dock.parat solutions

This photo shows the dock with 15 iPod Nanos.

This photo shows iTunes and the 15 iPods connected.

This photo shows the connector in the bottom of the dock.

This lab will use the Raybook lessons that we purchased last year in addition to iTunes U.

From my post last October 2007.

I had the opportunity to sit down with Mark Williams from Modality Learning and discuss a product his company has been working on called Raybook.
Now the tag line for Modality is “Making Small Screens Smarter”. The concept is simple enough, work with publishers to adapt their content to a small screen much like iTunes has adapted music to an mp3 player. We know where we are now with the iPod and other players. I know of schools, Durham Academy included that has purchased iPods with the Belkin Tune Talk to record podcasts for publishing on the Internet. We hoped to perhaps create audio books by having a parent narrate a book we own or even work with Audible Education to load content onto the iPods. Both of these methods could work, but the issue was one was just an input device for recording while the other had the issue of getting just the right content onto the device.

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Raybook offers FREE US Geography Learning!!

Just in time for summer vacation, Raybook is offering U.S. Geography for FREE with the code “LEARNGEO,” through the month of May. Get it now and those long plane, train, car rides can prepare your students for next summer. In addition, they are also offering 20% off any title for the same time period with “SPRING08”

This article appeared in our News and Notes earlier in the year:

Durham Academy has purchased a site license for Raybook Math Facts to outfit first and second grade students with Math Facts: Addition and Subtraction and third and fourth grade students with Math Facts: Multiplication and Division. The programs provide simple flash cards and study guides to help students learn fundamental math skills. In addition to having them in the classroom, students and parents will be able to download these Raybooks for home use.

The Raybooks were recently tested in the Lower School’s second and third grades. “The students were highly motivated to practice with them,” said math coordinator Bonnie Boaz. “They looked forward to practicing with the iPods and didn’t view it as a drill.” Second and third graders worked in pairs with one student operating the iPod and the other answering the questions. Their scores on subsequent tests tended to be higher than when using traditional methods to practice math facts.

Modality, Inc. is the maker of Raybook, which combines text, images and audio into portable learning and reference resources for the iPod. Originally designed for college anatomy students, founder and DA parent Mark Williams saw that this simple repetition would have application for all levels of students. He was recently named one of 10 Apple Science Innovators for 2008, recognizing individuals who demonstrate excellence in the integration of new technology in research and education.

After we purchased the site license for Math Facts Raybooks we mailed each Lower School parent the key codes for their very own copy. We hoped they would download and use the Raybooks as we believe the iPod can be a much stronger learning tool then it has been seen as a device to leave in their bookbag.

One parent, really liked our idea and left Michele Gutierrez some feedback. How many school technology teachers would like to get this feedback?
Parent Raybook Feedback

South Florida University Lit2Go

iTunes U is growing by leaps and bounds. MacWorld did an article in October called iPod Study Buddy. I have already written about Raybook and how I think they can help to create content for the small screen. iTunes U is mostly thought of as higher education but that is changing. Janice Adams from Apple told me about how the University of South Florida’s College of Education has recorded and made available Literature to Go for students and teachers across the world to use.

To get there, Open iTunes – Click on iTunes Store – Look for University of South Florida – College of Education on iTunes. You will then see Lit2Go as well as many other resources. The stories are listed by grade level. What a great assignment for students to load up their iPod with Literature!


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Professor Angela McFarlane’s Keynote Address at BLC in 2007

Some day I will attend one of Alan November’s Building Learning Communities workshops, but until then, I can listen in and get the message from the experts he invites. One such person is Professor Angela McFarlane who gave the keynote speech this year. Her research into Online Learning Communities and games has allowed her to see what is successful and where it fails. I suggest you listen to her keynote (1:05:08 long).