Monday, September 28, 2009

I’m sure many of you have heard of the Learning 2.0 website created by Helene Blowers, formerly the Public Services Technology Director for the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. The website she created, 23 Things, was designed to engage her fellow librarians in the use of web 2.0 tools she felt reflected the needs of a 21st Century library. Ms. Blowers spoke of her experience at a local event for Technology Coordinators last April where she generously gave us all permission to use the website or create our own modeled after hers. I've been exploring that possibility ever since and I am finally moving forward with it. Using Moodle as our "delivery system," we’ll explore a variety of tools teachers might use themselves or in their classrooms.

Our goals are as follows:
• Moodle is new for most of our teachers and we wanted to model new ways of using it.
• We want to give our teachers the experience of learning through a community of fellow learners.
• We want to model ways in which our students live and learn.
• We want to provide our teachers a safe, non-anxiety producing way of exploring Web 2.0 tools.
• We want to expose teachers to content associated with 21st Century teaching and learning.

Members of my department and I are currently developing 21 Things for the 21st Century. The lessons will last 10 weeks starting in January and continuing to our spring break in March. Here is a list of web 2.0 tools we are currently debating on whether or to not include:

1. Blogging
2. RSS
3. Image Generators
4. Wikis
5. Presentation Applications – Glogster, Prezi, VoiceThread
6. Photo’s and Images using Flickr
7. Podcasting/Vodcasting
8. Wordle
9. Google Docs
10. Creative Commons

We continue to have discussions about what to include (the Thing), as well as the “Discovery Exercises” that teachers must complete in order to practice the “Thing.” It's these exercises that make up the 21 Things, not the application itself. In order to fit everything into 10 weeks, two of these apps will be cut, but deciding which has to go is difficult. What would you choose as most essential to the (K-12) classroom teacher ?

We’ll make a final decision on October 6th. Stay tuned!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Julie and Julia

You know blogging has become mainstream when...Hollywood makes a movie about it.

But Julie and Julia makes me think about those who have not yet embraced blogging. And about those who don't understand the way it empowers and gives voice to...well...just about anyone.

In the movie Julie's blog serves as a kind of therapy along with her cooking. But the important thing is that she finds a way to celebrate learning (via Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking) by sharing the learning process with an unknown audience. That audience grows from her husband and friends and mother to hosts of others who share her interest in food and who make an intellectual or emotional investment in her project.

And we empathize with Julie's evolution as a blogger -- her typing into the void, her excitement when she is discovered by her first readers, her quandary about what to publish and what not to publish about her personal life. We want her to succeed in blogging (teaching, reflecting, sharing) about cooking each of the several hundred recipes in Child's influential book. We celebrate how she is an interactive reader who digests the book (in more ways than one) and produces something all her own.

Blogs may very well be one of the key tools for teaching and learning we have at our disposal today. So why are we still assigning the five-paragraph theme?

-- Susan

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Leading with Learning

I love NECC. I love it and I hate it. I come home after four intense days of lectures, workshops, debates, and playgrounds, all fired up with the latest and greatest means of teaching better through technology.

Then I return to my school and try to share what I’ve learned. Let’s face it; it’s a foreign language to most teachers. What I struggle with most is guiding teachers to the tools they’ll need to implement a 21st teaching pedagogy, tools that will help them connect to other teachers and classrooms. Just when I feel that I’ve reached a point where teachers don’t roll their eyes or snicker when I say “wiki” or “blog,” I am confronted with new tools. Do I dare introduce Twitter as a tool for learning? Is now the best time to share Digg, Facebook, VoiceThread, or GoogleDocs with teachers who are busy preparing for a new school year? Our Tablet PC program is starting its fifth year. Is now the ideal moment to tell them we should be exploring the power of Netbooks and handhelds in the classrooms? Does it undermine the legitimacy of these new, powerful tools if I send out a tweet to all my peeps in the Upper School faculty room asking them to join my LinkedIn network?

The reality is that the pace of technology far exceeds the pace of change in most schools. However, the thing that is most constant, our mission and our purpose, is that we seek out every possible way for all our students to learn in a way that is both powerful and meaningful. On that we all agree. So when I speak with teachers, I don’t lead with the latest app or cool new gadget, I lead with learning. What’s the most challenging thing to teach? What’s the most difficult concept for students to grasp? What resource might help turn the corner and make the lesson come alive? That’s when good teachers are ready to ask the question: “what’s new?” When I lead with learning, it is easier to translate “geek speak” into a language we all understand.

-- Renee

Friday, July 10, 2009

Writing Across the Internet

What are the forms, the rhetorical modes, that we use and will use as we write, post, create, and share on the Internet? What forms will our writing take in our personal lives and our professional encounters? Where do our students need the most help in learning how to write meaningfully for the Web?

I'm thinking about interviews, reflection, synthesis, and definition. I'm thinking about writing that packs a punch in 140 characters. I'm thinking about writing with hyperlinks and writing with media.

This is what we do. But do we really think about how to do it?

-- Susan

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Thoroughly Modern Media

We are exploring ways to create meaningful content, learn for life and work, and grow as thoughtful users of media. We are teachers by day, Internet trapeze artists by night, and learners always.

-- Susan and Renee