Constitution Class

Adam Curry was discussing the need to know more about the Constitution as we get closer to the election. Would this video be helpful to all students no matter if they could not vote? Michael Badnarik was a candidate for President in 2004 under the Libertarian Party Banner. His Constitution Class is needed knowledge for all Americans.

While I am not endorsing a particular political ideal, I do think the video can be useful for learning.

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Starting From Scratch Presentation

I listened to Ben Wilkoff ‘s presentation at the K12 Online Conference on “Starting From Scratch: Framing Change for All Stakeholders” He does an incredible job of laying out the framework needed to have institutional change happen. If you are at all interested in learning what can be done with the new tools, check out this presentation. It can be downloaded for an iPod, played online or even downloaded with just audio. This is a must listen.

He identifies 6 key components for Authentic Learning
It needs to be:
1. Contextual
2. Connected
3. Collaborative
4. Change-Directed
5. Conversational
6. Continous

A screencast for framing change for students

A podcast on Discourse about Discourse

His blog

His supporting documents are invaluable.

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Technology Task Forces Proposal #1

I attended the first session of Ed Costello’s 4 sessions he will be having where he alerts the faculty to possible action items coming out of the years work that our Technology Task Force did in concert with the Technology Advisory Committees study of laptop programs around the country. I think our group worked well and was well served by Liz Coleman and Sheppy Vann’s leadership.

I thought I would blog about our proposals that will be put out for a vote in April of 2008.

Proposal 1: Expand and support a digital learning and communication environment accessible anytime, anywhere!

What is it, Why must we expand it, and How will it be done?

What is it: Our students use many digital tools today in their life outside of school. Supporting digital learning is about blending the best of Durham Academy; faculty, relationships, curriculum or the “brick and mortar” with the digital changes in learning and the world. Through the use of DAILE Moodle we have started down the path of creating a digital learning and communication environment. Perhaps we should call it DABLE for Durham Academy Blended Learning Environment since Interactive or Virtual Learning Environments do not best reflect the brick and mortar nature of a private school. Check out how Bloom’s Taxonomy can be addressed within Moodle.

Learners today need access to digital content in order to extend what is taught in class. Students have an over load of information available to them today and as educators we need to help them make sense of it all by teaching within the digital environment. Moodle makes this possible in ways unimaginable only a few years ago. I see this reflected each day as students use messages to communicate, wikis to publish and collaborate, and lead classes or clubs which in turn begs the question: Who is the teacher and Who is the learner?

In the summer of 2007, ISTE updated the NETS for students to reflect the changes taking place in technology and learning:
I. Creativity and Innovation
II. Communication and Collaboration
III. Research and Information Retrieval
IV. Critical Thinking, Problem-Solving and Decision-Making
V. Digital Citizenship
VI. Technology Operations and Concepts.

How well is Durham Academy preparing our students in these areas of core knowledge?

Why we must expand it:
We have started building the digital learning environment and now must include all community members. I was happy to hear Kathy Cleaver bring up the notion of making sure that all of the community members have the ability to connect. DA will need to insure that all members can access the digital learning community which means providing Internet access to families that do not have it.

Teachers are not the gate keepers of the information as we once used to be. We do need to help students create the context for the information overwhelm that is taking place today. In addition, students need to use more then just text to learn. The use of images, audio, video and social networking tools must become part of all curriculum areas as we move our learning environment forward. We are building an online learning community for Durham Academy just like we have built an online community for parents and alumni with our web site. See A Vision of Students Today for a good example. Yes it is on Youtube. Mike Wesch from Kansas State University is a leading thinker on this subject. See Alan November’s post on “Banning Student Containers“.

How will it be done:
Change is not easily embraced by humans as it causes us to invoke the fight or flight urge. We do have a plan that will be as painless as possible with appropriate and sustained professional development to prepare teachers to use these new tools. There will be some minimum standards that teachers will need to meet, but have yet to be defined. I would expect they will be attainable and something like essential information for your class that you give students already. Of course the tool kit will include more then this basic ability and like teachers have always done, you will make appropriate decisions on what tools to employ. Some teachers will use more tools while others may make the decision to use the basic set. These choices are how professionals educators work. However, not knowing about the tools will not be reason for not using the tools. We can also enlist the assistance of our students as we move into this new arena.

Restructuring of a school is no different the what businesses do to remain competitive. What aspect in your life have remained the same in the past ten years? Still take your check to the bank to deposit it? Still write checks for everything you purchase? Do you pay your bills online? Have you ever purchased a book or other item from Amazon? This past week I saw a video down by parents of ours who were outraged that Spencer Gifts was selling inappropriate items at a mall. It was on YouTube. Adults and students live in a different digital reality outside of school so we are proposing to keep the best of Durham Academy and blend it with the new tools for learning that exist outside of our walls.

Dory Devlin is one parent who sees what her daughter is doing with Moodle and blogs about it. She is not a parent of a DA student but her comments are what I would hope our parents would say about our use of Moodle.

This is the actual proposal text from our recommendations:
Web-Based Learning Environment:
All technology must support and advance the learning environment in the future which will need to adjust to stay relevant in the twenty-first century. The focus will be on preparing the students for their future needs to compete in the new global marketplace.
Continued development of the Interactive Learning Environment that the DAILE Moodle offers students and teachers. Along with Moodle, Word PressMU will allow teachers to efficiently and easily post information when the need for interaction is not needed or developmentally appropriate. Mahara will be added into Moodle 2.0 for Social Networking and ePortfolios along with Galleries and Blogs. Durham Academy should continue to explore Open-Source solutions in this area.
All teachers must have a web presence to their classroom or course which will become part of the professional evaluation. Divisions will set the standards but levels of interaction should be increasing as the student progresses through Durham Academy. Probable expectations will include: Communication for School to Parent, Teacher to Student in Middle and Upper, Teacher to Parent in Lower and Preschool, Teacher approved Links for learning, Syllabus, Class Policies, Homework, Extension of the classroom. The public nature will offer a preview to future classes and prospective parents.
Beginning with the 2009 – 2010 academic year, students in grade six and grade nine will be equipped with a Macintosh Laptop as the standard school model. Laptop users will be able to run either the Windows or Macintosh operating system on the school model standard laptop configuration. Parents will be assessed an annual fee for the use of the laptop in the Middle School, while Upper School students will purchase the school model. As the use of laptops begin, the computer competency exam will sunset as the skills being measured do not represent the skills be used.
Develop a Learning Community Portal so students have asynchronous communication among peers and access to files from where ever they are learning geographically.
Development of student e-portfolios that will exhibit their work over the course of Middle and Upper school. Mahara imbedded in Moodle will support this need.
Electronic textbooks, when available, will need to be used by teachers. The exception to this is paperbacks. In all of our observations paperback books were used in the schools visited. Their size lends itself to the paper form factor. Also e-textbooks leverage the use of augmented materials now being made available by publishers through the virtual learning environment systems. Also many e-textbooks contain electronic highlighting features, note taking and links to web content. Ideally, these will be loaded on student laptops eliminating the need for both a textbook and a laptop.

Tech Task Force Planning, Analysis and Shared Values

The Technology Task Force held seven face to face meetings and virtual meetings via DAILE Moodle, visited 8 schools across the country, attended 3 International Conferences on Educational Technology, Science Education, and Laptops in schools, and worked with the white paper submitted by Durham Academies Technology Advisory Committee that spent a year working on research regarding student laptops.

Our recommendations are as follows.

  • Expand and support a digital learning and communication environment accessible anytime, anywhere
  • Set expectations and provide ample professional development opportunities and support
  • Expand and support the physical infrastructure for a student laptop learning environment to begin in sixth and ninth grade

Our Task Force met seven times face to face during the 2006 – 2007 academic year along with virtual meetings conducted via DAILE Moodle. The original twenty members identified areas of interest to research early in the year and spent time gathering data to share with the group. In conjunction with the work of the Task Force, Liz and Karl were also on the Technology Advisory Committee (TAC) that undertook a study of the feasibility of a one to one laptop initiative. The two studies provided data that blended together well. The TAC visited eight schools from around the country in person as well as conducted many virtual visits.

As the task force obtained data, we shared it within the discussion forums so we could make sure that all members could express their view. The TAC also shared data gathered by site visits which was shared via a laptop study white paper submitted in August of 2007. The task force incorporated the TAC white paper into its recommendations since many of the questions or topics were ones the task force focused on as well.

Shared Values

• Technology must be used to support other Task Force Recommendations as it supports our entire learning environment

• Learning environments are changing with the advances in technology and global pressures

• Change is handled best when presented with a corresponding amount of trust and support

• Technology is advancing in ways not seen before with negative consequences for industries who do not keep pace

Some of the Schools we Visited
School of the Future in Philadelphia

Picture 5
The Urban School in San Francisco

Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia
Picture 1

Saint Agnes and Saint Dominic School in Memphis
Picture 2
Berkeley Prep in Tampa
Picture 3
Girls Preparatory School in Chattanooga

Saint Mary’s in Raleigh
Greensboro Day School

Picture 4
Cary Academy

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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).

Student Writing with Moodle

Why do students need to use digital tools or as Alan November calls them, Student Containers. While the conversations are within the “walled garden” of the DAILE Moodle, it is clear to see that students are willing to read books and suggest books to fellow classmates. The following exchange is by sixth grade boys in Mrs. Williamson’s class discussing books to read. The topic of the post was the book Bud Not Buddy
Bud Not Buddy
by Tom G. – Monday, 8 October 2007, 04:39 PM
I am reading “Bud Not Buddy.” It is a great book and I can’t wait to finish it. If you started to read it you would enjoy immensly.

Re: Bud Not Buddy
by Cameron E. – Monday, 8 October 2007, 08:48 PM
Whats it about?
Re: Bud Not Buddy
by Ryan P. – Wednesday, 10 October 2007, 07:57 PM
I read it, it’s really good

Re: Bud Not Buddy
by Tom G. – Thursday, 18 October 2007, 09:37 AM
Bud Not Buddy is about a boy who is in an orphanage and he is going to find his father. Or who he thinks is his father
Re: Bud Not Buddy
by Trey H. – Thursday, 18 October 2007, 09:39 AM
are the chapters really long and if so are they easy to get through
Re: Bud Not Buddy
by Tom G. – Thursday, 18 October 2007, 09:41 AM
Some chapters are long but is a book you won’t want to put down. It is a newbery award

Mrs. Williamson’s thoughts: “The writing isn’t perfect. The editing isn’t perfect. But they are discussing literature! They are sharing information about a book they enjoyed. It got them writing…and about literature! I have rules about posting in a forum, and it all has to be school appropriate, or they will lose moodle privileges for a week. I have not had anyone violate this rule as of yet. SO COOL!”

I think this is how we fill student containers with appropriate content and uses instead of banning the containers.

Can Small Screens Help Learners?

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 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.

Now comes Raybook with titles from Brain Quest, CliffNotes, and other publishers. Now we have content that we can download onto the device that is appropriate for young learners. Doesn’t every student need to learn the multiplication tables, spelling of life time words, geography facts, math facts, history facts to only mention a few. What would happen if the fact learning was done with an iPod while coming to school, at a friends house, or at a center in the classroom? Imagine that the teacher could have the student take a quiz using the same questions from the iPod content. This is possible and could be done if Modality Learning keeps working on their products. I hope to have the LS Digikids test their products to see if we should work with the company.

In the interest of full disclosure Mark Williams is a parent and husband of a colleague and students here at Durham Academy. In addition, the company is just down the street right here in Durham so this is a no brainer as far as I am concerned.

To find out how Raybook works, check out how it works. It reminds me of Look Up Above ” Is it a plane, is it a bird… No it is super learning….

Ok, so I am not a marketing genius but I think this is a company and product to watch as schools purchase these little devices or students purchase them and bring them to school. What if instead of banning them, we added content to it?

Dr. Jim Goodnight’s Address

Dr. Jim Goodnight addressed the National Workshop on Stimulating and Sustaining Excitement and Discovery in K-12 (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) STEM Education on August 1, 2007. He is the CEO of SAS and co-founder of Cary Academy. Long known for his support of education, his speech reflects the state of what needs to happen in education. He stated that we need a Sputnik type event. Take a listen to his presentation as he clearly states what schools need to do more of while shedding the historical patterns of the past.

In a related note, I was at Cary Academy on Friday to attend a meeting. Students are using the tools he talks about so his words are backed up with action.

Alan November at Learning 2.0

Wesley Freyer was one of quite a few presenters at the Learning 2.0 conference at the Concordia International School Shanghai, Pudong 201206, Shanghai held in September of this year. Wesley podcasted one of Alan’s sessions called: Creating globally connected, rigorous and highly motivated assignments. This podcast is worth listening to as it is 1 hour and 10 minutes long. I have listened to it twice already as I am scribing some of the topics so I can write about them here. I would love for all teachers to hear this podcast as I think it will challenge us to think in new ways.

As a co-chair of the Technology Task Force at Durham Academy that is charged with developing a 5-year plan for technology, it is the thinking and writing of many of the folks who presented at this conference that have influenced my suggestions. While I have not heard Alan speak in person, I do want to attend his November Learning Series of workshops someday. Wesley, Jamie McKenzie and Will Richardson are folks who I have had the pleasure of hearing in person. All are dynamic and would be great folks to have come to Durham Academy to help us map our future and our current as well. David Warlick would also be good and he is in Raleigh. However, it is Alan that interests me the most as he is a speaker who has consistently pushed me in my thinking and challenged me in ways that I both dislike and know I need to grow. The sign of a great teacher.

Topics he brings up in this podcast that are of critical importance are:

Grammar of the Internet: The information today is too much! Most of it is messy or as Alan states: Misleading, Overwhelming and Ill conceived. Alan affirms that teachers are great at putting together well conceived information. The trouble today is that our students have access to growing amounts of ill conceived information so we must teach them how to organize it. We need to teach them the syntax, grammar and punctuation. Check out his Grammar of the Internet to learn more. Take the Quiz and then work on the follow-up activities.

Legacy and Publishing for a Global Audience: “Students from 3rd grade on should be taught the rigors and discipline of writing an encyclopedia article”. In addition, they should publish it in wikipedia or other online wiki resource. Good news is that some of our students are already doing this with in our DAILE Moodle. 5th graders have worked on a CSI wiki while 3 7th grade students have worked on creating a metric wiki for their Science class. The Pitot House is an example of an elementary classes work. Our students need to be writing in wikis so hats off to those teachers who are starting to do this skill. In fact, I will wager that in the future, students will use wikis more then they will use application based word-processing software. Not much of a statement, when you realize that most already are doing it, just not in school.

Problem Solving Process: Schools should have a set of problem solving process that is known by all learners and is used across the curriculum. What is ours? Is it Big 6?

Give it a listen and see if you are motivated to seek change. You can listen to it on the web or in iTunes

I liked his comment: “Teachers do not need to know how to podcast, they need to know WHEN to podcast”.