Permission to Go Off Lesson Plans

Permission

‘Seeking Permission’ http://www.flickr.com/photos/50614028@N00/3827632898

At the last Innovation and Learning Cohort meeting, I suggested we could write a chapter called “The Permission Not Taken” after many members, and myself, expressed the reluctance to stray from a lesson plan that has always worked or that we just felt we had to do in order to meet our goals or the curriculum goals. All of us agreed that we have the luxury and support to experiment and adjust our classrooms as we best see fit. This is a benefit of working at a private school that trusts their teachers to be the professionals that we are. So I took a slight risk and decided to tryout the Pixton for Schools accounts I had purchased as I wanted to try something different. I knew I was onto something when students began to remix the assigned comic and were saying how it was awesome, fun and the best thing they had done. I was also learning how the Pixton Teacher Console works so I could show it to other teachers. We were in all ways, learning with myself modeling to my students by doing it myself.

After the initial introduction comic, I asked them to create a comic based on the Martin Luther King, Jr., themes of Equality, Freedom or any other concept they felt important since we had been discussing that all week at school as part of our Martin Luther King, Jr. celebrations. I want to share a couple below as they created some wonderful ones while I learned how to use this awesome teacher friendly site.

My advice is to take the permission granted as we all might learn more.


Students Writing and Teaching While Looking for an Audience

Seats

Image: Apple\’s Eyes Studio / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Over the last few weeks, more students are looking for audiences for their writing and stop animation movies. Mostly the avenue chosen is to send out email messages individually to students and teachers or to a conference where all students can read the request. I think this is a great indicator of the changes that are taking place not only with our students but also with teaching and learning. As the Innovation and Learning Cohort continues to discuss the book: The New Culture of Learning we run into this shift in each chapter. While we could feel threatened by it, I think we need to realize the power this affords us in our classroom. We no longer have to be the smartest person in the room, but do need to be the wisest. This wisdom will allow us to guide the learning, asking questions that allow learners to go further in their thinking and learning as well as modeling that learning is something that does not stop. The changes taking place in education are thrilling even when I am not sure what comes next.

There will be those who read the student writing below and wonder why the writing is not essay or formal quality. I believe this is a new informal writing that is more conversational then it is formal so while I too cringe at some of the errors, I also believe that we have to allow the students to own their learning and at times learning is, well messy.

I asked the students if it was OK to blog their requests so here they are. If you have a moment, add a comment and let them know what you think.

Ashwin writes:

MORE!!! A observation on blogging by: Ashwin S.January 9th, 2012  Tagged blog, more, personal I’ve noticed over the time I’ve been blogging that most people have the same overwhelmingly feeling. That they want more comments more replies or as I phrased it in my title they want MORE!!! Well you think that I am stating the obvious because who wouldn’t want people to see what they were writing that’s the whole point of blogging isn’t it? Well I think that a lot of people want more comments because of human nature. The more people pay attention to you the better you do in life. Even I am feeling like I want more comments (So please comment) it’s just the way we are. A common phrase I say is the perfect way to describe this observation. That phrase is “That’s just life”. http://pdroom212.edublogs.org/2012/01/09/more-a-observation-on-blogging-by-ashwin-s/

Students in sixth grade have really taken to blogging as you can see from some of their posts. I hold great hope that we can begin to see more teachers use this method of authentic writing with their classes.

Alex G sent out this message to a select group of people both at our school and outside of our school:

You may have already gotten an email message like this from me (Alex G.) or Gus L. but we’re just really trying to spread our stop-motion videos to the world. Me and Gus make LEGO stop-motion on imovie and are going to start using ikitmovie (agreat stop-motion sowtware) which I got a few days ago. I’m currently putting my BEST VIDEO YET on youtube so it will be visible probably tommorrow (thurs. january 12). It’s called The Gang, a LEGO STOP-MOTION and don’t worry none of our or my videos are inappropriate unless you say clay blood  or lego guns are but if i can stand watching it, you probably can too. I’ve sent this to my advisory and many other 6th graders and 5th and 6 grade teachers

If you go to youtube or google (and yes, google) just look up in search: “stopmotionbro alex lego” and some of my videos will come up and in the description of the video, if it says stopmotionbro (me) and doofuzz123 (that’s gus) that means we bothmade it. We’ve only made a few together though. I make them on my own out of lego, clay, caplas, puppets, and on paper. My best Videos will say in the description, used IKITMovie.

This is not chainmail but it would be great if you did send this to or tell other people about our videos. thanks and enjoy the videos!
ps, I CURRENTLY HAVE 999 VIEWS FROM 2 MONTHS OF POSTING VIDEOS SO I ATLEAST WANT 1000 BY THE END OF THE DAY but i don’t need to worry because i get about 50 views a day.
Alex G. 6th grade student

Gus and Ian sent out this message. Clearly Gus is working with many students so must be a good collaborator.

Ian L. and I created a youtube account. It is IGLProductionz. We are uploading videos DAILY, and we hope that you subscribe, as it means a lot to us and will encourage us to make more videos!

So when you hear about how teachers need to harness the passion of their students, this, I believe, is the passion we are talking about. What would happen if these students were directed to create videos for subjects and concepts in the classroom as well as the ones they are passionate about like stop animation and Minecraft? Besides, these students are learning about copyright, fair use, Creative Commons and other 21st Century issues.

Since YouTube is blocked at school, all of this work is taking place outside of school and with their parents knowledge and support.

Here’s to a bigger audience for your teaching and learning.

The Year 2011 by Google with a Thanks to Richard

2011

Image from:http://www.adrdesignonline.com/happy-new-year-from-adr-design/

Quoted From Richard Bryne’s Blog: http://www.freetech4teachers.com/2011/12/year-in-google-searches.html

 

“Today, Google launched their 2011 Zeitgeist site. Google’s 2011 Zeitgeist features a menu of the most-searched terms of 2011. You can view the overall picture or use the menus to see the most searched terms according to region, country, and theme. The menus are nice and they reveal some interesting patterns, but the real highlight of Google Zeitgeist 2011 is the year in review video. Like other year in review videos, Google’s year in review video features a lot of short video clips and pictures of the year’s biggest stories. The video includes both serious news topics and lighter stories from the world of entertainment.

Applications for Education

Before showing the video to students ask them what they think were the most searched terms of the year. Then show the video and see which stories they missed. That activity could spark a good conversation about news cycles and why some stories stick in our heads while others are quickly forgotten.”

 

http://www.googlezeitgeist.com/en

My reaction to the movie was emotional as the events fade from memory with each new one that hits the screen.

With all of the changes in the world, it is easy to loose track of what matters most, human interactions and a kind word.

Happy New Year

 

Karl

Are Schools Ready for Post PC Laptop or iPad Programs

Ipadvchromevair pages

As schools, mine included, look to adopt the latest portable or mobile devices, I am wondering if the decision makers are also considering whether or not the school is ready for a post PC device. I know our school is testing iPads in one class while another class uses MacBooks. Granted, the iPads are brand new and the laptops are 4 years old but the differences are pretty stark. I thought about this starkness more after reading the Steven Levy article in Wired on Jeff Bezos about Amazon and the Kindle Fire.

“The iPad’s design, marketing, and product launches all emphasize the special character of the device itself, which the company views as a successor to the PC—complete with video-chat capabilities and word-processing software.” Steven Levy, Wired Magazine 19.12 December 2011

While the Kindle Fire is not an iPad, I do think it is an interesting device that deserves attention. My observations are that I believe there are 3 strong contenders for device choice in schools today. Sorry Wintel machines, but I am first an Apple Fan Boy and second a Google Fan Boy. I have never been a Windows Fan Boy as I learned on a Macintosh and have made my career using Apple devices and Google services.

The iPad is a wonderful device for consuming, creating, learning, reading, and investigating many of the powerful learning apps that are available. I think it takes a teacher willing and able to invest the time along with her students to learn how to add the device to the normal class routines. Many teachers may not have the aptitude, energy, or desire to allocate the time to not only bring in a device, but one that behaves unlike any device that most teachers are familiar with to date. The iPad is both a computer and not a computer since it is a new category of device. We have had success with putting them in the class we are testing them in although we have also had failures as much as these moments of success. See my earlier Google Docs Eureka post for one example. Something so central to what students and teachers do should not be this difficult if the technology is supporting or advancing the learning. The iPad does not fit neatly into the existing system of most schools, but, can be made to fit into parts while opening up new systems.

The trajectory of the iPad will no doubt continue to take it’s users to places we have not seen before, but is it the best device to put into a school that may not be interested in reshaping it’s systems like the iPad is reshaping the PC and other industries? I am of a mixed opinion as I can appreciate the enthusiasm and willingness of our students to test and work with the iPad. The project is helping them in many ways since we are able to unload some of the items from their book bags, but is it a program that can be duplicated or will the teachers be unprepared for the re-thinking that must accompany a device like this demands. No amount of training can adequately prepare a classroom for the time when half of the students were able to do X while the other half could only do Y due to the device. Granted, this is a rich arena for collaborative learning, but is it replicable? I am reminded of William Stites post about the iPad being a consumer device first and foremost. Managing the iPads is at times similar to yoga moves that you watch the instructor do but realize your body just does not bend that way.

The MacBook Air features all of the things we know and love about personal computers with the advantages of being fast and light weight. We all know how it works so when the device shows up, as it already has for some lucky students, the device fits into the existing structure of the classroom. Of course, classroom management training of a class set of devices would greatly aid teachers going from not using devices into a classroom that is connected. Since our school already uses Moodle and Google Apps for Education, the Air just flows into the system without needing to adjust the system to meet the Air. This is a big difference for the time investment of teachers. It also will not necessarily move a school as far as the iPad since the internal system change will be less. How much of a system shakeup is desired should be a determing factor in choice of device.

Google’s Chromebook is the 3rd choice that I see as viable for schools. While new and very different which could compare it more to the iPad, it is still mostly a PC. The main difference is that the Chromebook behaves sort of like an iPad with the familiarity of a laptop. Another big difference is the approach to business between Apple and Google in how users interact with their particular ecosystems. Using the image in the Wired Article, as a starting point for my thinking, I see Google similar to Amazon in that their plan is not device lock-in, but services lock-in which of course is less then perfect in either case. These differences appear to be here for the long term given that each company has invested a lot of money in developing the services. In the chart below, replace Amazon with Google and you will have a pretty close comparison between iPads and Chromebooks except for the Specialized browser since the Chrome OS is only a browser.

Jeff Bezos Owns the Web in More Ways Than You Think | Magazine 1

I am intrigued by what Ravenscroft is doing with their Google Apps and Chromebook project. I think highly of the work that Jason Ramsden has done as he is a deep thinker so the fact they are piloting Chromebooks gives it credence in my opinion. I also listened to an earlier podcast from Ed Tech Talk where he discussed the plan.

Before any school adopts a device based solely on cost or screen size, they should also ponder how it will fit either into the current learning system or how it will propel the learning system to be different.

Using Google Docs on iOS Device – Eureka!

Google Search

Those of you who have been reading this blog since the iPad was announced have read my posts about the issues with using Google Apps for Education on an iOS device. Sure you could sort of use them if you were willing to do equal parts troubleshooting and lowered expectations. I have tried various apps that purport to be the best with being able to connect to our Google Apps for Education accounts to create, edit, share and use without limitations or at least few limitations. Most of the apps come close but when any number of students report having lost work, I believe the system is not a true system. Granted in baseball, .400 is a good average, but if you only have 40% of the work you did, you would agree it is not a system.

Because of this issue, I have been concerned about what we would loose from our normal educational routine if our school adopted iPads for students over laptops since there is virtually no issues with Google Apps for Education from a non-mobile computer. While I am still not sure what is the best device, I have been able to solve the main issue with creating, editing, and sharing Google Apps on an iOS device. I used the new Google Search app and clicked on Applications to select Documents. Once I did this, I could do in iOS what I can also do on a non-iOS device. The only caveat yet to overcome is that when the document is shared with another user they can not see who has shared it with them. Until that is resolved, yes I am talking to you Google, students or teachers may need to add their first name to the title of the document.

If you have yet to update to the new Google Search App, [iTunes Link] do so now as it is really slick with other features as well.


Client Software Downloads When You Do Not Own the Device

upload

‘Upload / Download’ http://www.flickr.com/photos/59158146@N00/1229138273

Our students use FirstClass Communication for their school email and messaging system. As part of my Digital Learning class, I assign the act of downloading and configuring the client software so students have the best possible experience with the system. There is a web-based interface which to their credit has become pretty good. However, it is not apples to apples between the client software and the web interface, so we still prefer that students download and install the client software on their “home” computers. For many students this is not an issue as siblings may go to school here as well so the software may already be setup. Others share computers with their parents and while many parents do allow the downloading and installing others do not for any variety of reasons. Perhaps the laptops are the parents work computer or perhaps they prefer to only install software that is needed for their use. It may also be a case of the real fear of being infected with malware or viruses. Computers for the most part become quite personal and must be dependable since new software can cause issues with other software. Again, great strides have been made, but yet the client is more powerful.

Here are some responses I received from my 5th and 6th grade students. You can see that the success and reactions are all over the place. If this were the class textbook, how would this be handled?

Dear Mr. Schaefer,

Success! It was very easy. However, if we ever have to download more downloads, my mom needs to know what we we are going to be using it for. Thank you and I can’t wait for another fun day in Technology!! 🙂

Best wishes,

N

Dear Mr. Schaefer,

Sorry but my mom won’t let me download first class on my computer, sorry once again

Your friend,

I

Dear Mr. Schaefer,

I tried to download First Class they way you told us in class, but it still would not work. I usually would ask my dad to help me but both of my parents are out of town right now. My dad gets back on Thursday and I will ask him to help me then. I apologize if this causes any trouble and I will do my best to install it.

Sincerely,

J

I have had it since the begining of the year. In fact, my mom is the one who thought of getting it on my computer!

See you later,
C

Firstclass is downloaded on both of my computers, my ipod, and my ipad.

Thank You,
D

The most telling part of our class discussions around email is that while almost all of the 5th grade students use FirstClass, almost all of the 6th grade students use a non-school Google account for their personal Gmail. FirstClass is only their “school” account. Since FirstClass has Instant Messaging, I asked them if they use it. Their response was, uh no, we use GTalk.

How are schools supposed to work in this new frontier when the approved tools become outdated because newer ones are available faster then schools can adapt and/or adopt? Is this OK since should schools attempt to be responsible for all aspects of a students technology?

As our school continues to contemplate issues a device to students there will be more questions like these that will need discussions. A good point of issuing a device is there will no longer be a need for students and parents to do homework that involves downloading, installing, and configuring software. Or will it?

 

 

Is it studying or learning?

Studying

‘Studying’ http://www.flickr.com/photos/90151774@N00/3349594759

I have blogged in the last year about how I wanted to flip my classroom with posts called When Students Teach Themselves and When Students Run the Class. Both highlight for me how I must adapt the ways I have always taught to the current culture of learning. I am helping to lead a cohort of teachers reading the book: New Cultures of Learning by John Sealy Brown and Douglas Thomas. We meet once a month and have great conversations about learning, future, past, current and our role and place. Read more at the blog. We are reading chapter 5 which talks about personal collectives. So the idea of observing what is going on in the labs and in the classes I teach is at the forefront of my thinking these days. In addition, the digital device project is going strong with near constant daily insights.

So with all of this going on, yesterday I overheard an interesting exchange between a very well-meaning teacher and a group of students. The teacher is responsible for an after-school study hall which is housed in a computer lab. Students sit at computers accomplishing work or sit elsewhere reading. Since it is after-school, most students have out their cell phones and iPods which are not allowed during the school day. There are rules for what students are supposed to be doing in order to maintain a productive environment. One thing they are supposed to have is a book to read if they have no homework I understand these rules and support them, for the most part, especially as the numbers of students has grown from 10 or 12 to over 30 students.

What happened yesterday though got me thinking, what is the difference between studying and learning? Are we in the studying business or the learning business? I believe it is the learning business and even though we are often hard pressed to describe what learning is, most teachers know it when they see it, or do they with the changes? Why is not one of the rules to be learning something and not just studying it since to me that implies the knowledge being gained is coming from a source outside the learner. I think we as educators may not recognize learning in this new form and instead may actually quash it in favor of the view of studying which is more familiar.

Sketchup

So what happened? Two students (both girls which is a whole different post about girls and computer science) just finished my class. In their last rotation they both created incredible SketchUp cities as they taught themselves and each other how to use and create. There was another student who they were teaching how to use Sketchup. Students teaching each other SketchUp has been going on constantly since the last rotation. They were not disrupting the study hall but were working on creating a village of their designs. As the teacher, who is well meaning, asked if they were done with their homework, check, they all were. Then came the fateful question, is what you are doing for a class? The students said no, and were told to quit it then as they should read a book or do something else as they could not “play” on the computer. They did quit and went about doing something different. These are exceptional students. I was disheartened but recognize that what looks like learning to me, looks like not studying to someone else.

As I prepared to leave for the day, the student who had been getting instruction stopped me to ask if she could create a petition to get a technology elective class for seventh and eighth grade students since there is not one. I told her I would support her doing that and asked what tool she would use hoping she would choose a Google form which she did. I gave no instructions on how to do anything but today in my email was a sample form asking for my feedback.

As Alan November states in his Global Education Keynote “Who controls the learning?” I would add, would we recognize it if we saw it or would we attempt to stop it?

Flipped Classroom or Blended Learning – How Does it Fit into My Classroom/School

Flipping the classroom is somewhat new although variations have been around for years. My fellow NCAIS Master Teacher Josh Thornton has worked on flipping his Math Class with good success. At the Middle School, various math teachers use Khan Academy to help their students. For the most part, it is not true flipping in that often the class comes to the lab during the school day and still do homework away from school and the teacher. I was reading Will Richardson’s blog post today about his upcoming meeting with the founder of Knewton who he will be interviewing on Thursday. On the Knewton, site I found this info-graphic which I thought was worth sharing. I am intrigued by the concept and wonder if we do a digital device, will teachers be willing to flip their classrooms?

I just started a new trimester class and I am amazed at how many students either have their own computer or share a computer with 3 or 4 other children or adults in the house. I do not think flipping will work unless we can make sure that connectivity and access is solved for all of our learners. I do think older students could greatly benefit from it as could our constant push for more time to teach. If all we do is drop a device into the classroom, we will have not done much of anything that is innovative.

I also like with George Couros wrote on the 24th about Technology being more then a tool. Read his post and look at this infographic as it is today and wonder what it will be in 5 years, 10 years? How will my classroom and my teaching adjust? How will yours?

Often the saying, “technology is just a tool”, is said in the context of schools and learning.  I (vaguely) remember writing a similar comment and being challenged regarding that same statement, but since then I have looked at technology in a different way.  Based on the definitions I have read, and the way I see technology (in many cases) being used, it has the power to be so much more than a website, device, or app.  If technology transforms the way we do things, is it “just a tool”?

Blended Learning

Created by Knewton and Column Five Media

 

Digital Learning Farm, Digital Learning, and NAIS Independent School Magazine

Guide to The Digital Learning Farm Flyer | Langwitches Blog

I mentioned this organizational structure yesterday as a way to reconfigure, if you will, a classroom when everyone is connected.

http://langwitches.org/blog/2011/06/21/the-digital-learning-farm-flyer/

Also good is the Globally Connected Learning

http://langwitches.org/blog/2011/06/22/guide-to-globally-connected-learning-flyer/

 

Digital Learning | The Committed Sardine

The concept of digital learning is also in need of understanding. The image above is from a great post on Fluency21 which is a group of educational thinkers founded by Ian Jukes. Read more about this take on digital learning at http://www.fluency21.com/blogpost.cfm?blogID=2288

How do our classrooms help foster or hinder these skills? If we add a connected digital device either as a part of the school or as an organic BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) or perhaps just use what we have students hide, where does our curriculum fit within this framework?

The underlying assumptions are core values and processes that enable digital learning to flourish. They are:

  • relevant and contextual curriculum
  • Assessment that is both challenging and transparent (since this lies in a relevant and contextual curriculum, it is also by definition relevant and contextual)
  • An emphasis of higher order thinking skills (analysis and evaluation – creativity is a core aspect of digital learning)
  • Valuing student voice and providing the students with ownership of their learning and assessment.

The author, Andrew Churches works with the Info Savvy Group and focuses on Information, Communication, and Technology (ICT). His bio quote is: “This is about ICT and education. Thoughts & reflections on integrating ICT in the classroom and across the school. I am the Curriculum Manager for ICT and contributor to the infosavvy group. To make a difference we have to change our pedagogy, How we teach, why we teach.”

The above article is from his blog at http://edorigami.edublogs.org Also check out the Edorigami Wiki for a wealth of information.

Independent School Magazine  Fall 2011  Evolution or Revolution

The NAIS Independent School magazine has great articles about change and other issues confronting Independent Schools. In the Fall 2011 Volume 71 number 1 issue Meredith Stewart from Cary Academy and formerly Durham Academy writes with her students about Learning Differently – and Deeply. The entire site is a wealth of resources for all of us in our search for answers to the questions facing our schools and our teaching profession.

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.