Saturday, November 7, 2009

Kaia and Room 10 - Why Blogs and Commenting On Blogs Are So Important

Composite picture Gloria, Room 10, Kaia, Kaia's rock picture
In an earlier post I discussed why blogging, and commenting on blogs, was so important. I gave two examples: my interactions with Room 10 of Pt. England School in Auckland, New Zealand and the series of interactions between Kaia, a three year old blogger (through the medium of her father Jabiz Raisdana) who lives in Qatar, Mr. Chamberlain and his 6th grade class in Noel, Missouri, and my EDM 310 students in Mobile, Alabama. Both examples continue to grow and a summary follows with links to all of the currently extant parts of the continuing interactions. First, however, I must add to the Kaia story.

After my students began to visit the original parts of the Kaia story (see below for links 1, 2 and 3 under The Kaia Story), Mr. Raisdana tweeted me and asked to Skype my class to thank them for posting so many comments to Kaia's blog which had pleased her (and her father) very much. I immediately said "Fantastic!" and the Skype visit was held last Thursday November 5 with my TT 11 class. One student, Dillon Rogers who is in the TT2 class and who has been quite taken by these interchanges, told me that she would be unable to attend class on November 5 and asked to be remembered to Kaia and her father. I said I would do that. Then a few days before the scheduled Skype visit I was reading Dillon's Blog and saw that she had taken the issue into her own hands and had made a movie for Kaia. The movie was Dillon reading Brown Bear, Brown Bear. Kaia watched that movie and asked to make a movie for Dillon. her father made a movie of Kaia reading Baby Bear, Baby Bear to Dillon. After Kaia's father had skyped my class, I showed both movies: Dillon reading Brown Bear, Brown Bear and Kaia reading Baby Bear, Baby Bear. My class wanted to do something for Kaia also so they recorded a spontaneous rendition of "i'm A Little Teapot".
What will happen next? I have no idea. But I am certain that these two expanding interactions among the students of Room 10 in Pt England School, Margaret, my gradddaughter, EDM 310 students, Mr. Chamberlain's students, Kaia and her father will continue and they will be replicated, ultimately, in thousands of similar interactions with people widely separated by geography, culture, age and many other things but closely linked through a common set of experiences and their humanity.

Think about this. We are changing the world! It is certainly something to celebrate!

Here are the links to the various elements of the story as they currently exist. Visit all of them. Read the comments. Visit the links within them. If you get lost, return here to pick up the story again. These are powerful stories of what technology can do to bring people together.

The Kaia Story

1. Kaia takes pictures and writes about them in her blog.
2. Mr. Chamberlain's class responds with comments and a Voicethread.
3. Kaia's father reflects on the above events and considers whether he likes what is happening. I see this post and the two parts of the story above. I make these three elements an assignment for all of the students in EDM 310. One of my students sees the same series of interactions and joins the conversation on his own. The conversation widens to Australia, elesewhere in the United States and beyond.
4. Kaia's father and I plan a Skype session with my class which will be missed by one of my students, Dillon Rogers. She reads Brown Bear, Brown Bear in a movie she makes For Kaia.
5. Kaia reads Baby Bear, Baby Bear in a movie she and her father made for Dillon.
6. Kaia's father, Jabiz Raisdana, Skypes my class.
7. I show my class Dillon's movie and Kaia's response. My class records a spontaneous rendition of "I'm A Little Teapot" for Kaia.
There are many other branches of this story unfolding, I am sure, as I write this. Why don't you add to this story also? Just comment on any of the related blog posts and you will be added to the growing web of participants throughout the world.
NOTE: I have added (1/27/10) some of the many other things that have happened since I first wrote this. The story continues!
8. Kaia's father posts his view of the unfolding story in Last Child on the Web
9. Kaia's original blog post This, This, That is honored as First Runner Up in Edublog's annual Most Influential Blog contest.

Room 10, Pt. England School, Auckland, New Zealand
1. I have my students participate in Comments4Kids (also on Twitter #comments4kids). I use Room 10 as my example in class and comment on this blog by third graders in New Zealand.
2. My students begin to comment on Room 10's blog. I get a thank you from, Mrs. Lavakula, Room 10's teacher.
3. Room 10 makes a movie to thank us.
4. I learn that schools in New Zealand are populated according to the SES of parents and that Pt. England school is at the bottom of that criterion. (But at the top, it appears to me, in the creative use of technologies!)
5. I make a movie to thank Room 10.
6. My grandchildren attend our annual family at the beach during the 3rd week of October. My 9 year old granddaughter, Margaret, watches Room 10's movie and wants to make a Movie for Room 10 which I post to the EDM 310 Class Blog. And Margaret tells me she goes to computer class (in Rochester, NY) every day but "we don't use them much."
7. Room 10 thanks me and Margaret through their teacher in an email and in comments on the EDM 310 blog. And others comment as well. You can see the connections expanding throughout the world!
8. Room 10 and I Skype each other. Room 10 sings and my class responds. Room 10 records some of our conversation.
9. I get a personal comment on my blog from Othaniel. Remember these are third graders doing this on their own!
10. We arrange another Skype visit for December.
11. Room 10 continues their blog posts.


Why don't you pay Room 10 a visit? Actually, why don't you pay Pt. England School a visit? You will find a school that has embraced technology and is using it wisely, creatively, and with great success! And leave them comments on their blogs! That is the most important part because you are their audience. And you become part of the growing world wide conversation that is taking place!

Celebrate this growing world wide exchange of information and ideas! This is REAL learning taking place!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Evidence Keeps Rolling In! Why Can't This Happen Everywhere?

Image of wordle
On the evening of October 5, while reading blogs of students in a graduate course on Social Media taught by Alec Couros (@courosa) at the University of Regina), I realized that several of them might benefit from a short demonstration of the power of blogs. So I put this collection together for all who might be interested in why blogs and blogging are so important, I think, to all teachers and students. I have also posted this on the EDM310 Class Blog.

The whole exercise should take about 30 minutes to do.

The Power of Blogs and Commenting on Blogs:

Read and listen to this exchange with Room 10 at Pt. England School, Auckland, New Zealand to understand the power of blogs:

1. I had my students comment on kids blogs as a result of Mr. William Chamberlain (@wmchamberlain also see #comments4kids) and the wonderful teachers who join him At The Teachers Desk". Many of my students visited Room 10 and left comments there.
This is the Thank You that the third graders (yes, 3rd graders!) sent to me and my students: Thank You Dr. Strange! Read my post which contains a thank you from the teacher. Then click on either the picture or the link provided and you will go to Room 10's blog. Read the post there and watch the wonderful movie Room 10 sent me. I was crying by the end of it!

2. I also got an email from Ms. Dorothy Burt (@dorothyjburt) which provided me with some very important information about Room 10, Pt. England School, and the kids who go there: An Email From Dorothy Burt.

3. I have now replied to Room 10. In my reply you will find the students in Room 10 are now known to many, including the President of the University of South Alabama. Watch My Reply to Room 10.

Not convinced about the power of blogs?

Well, watch this exchange of blogs and comments:

A blog by a three year old (her father is the medium through which she posts):
Dear Kaia

Mr. Chamberlain on his blog titled Dear Kaia: Voicethread and Video

Kaia's Father Muses: Intrepid Teacher: Singing Hearts

I could add many more wonderful examples. Here are two additional links to stir your interest:

Point England School, Auckland, New Zealand. Kids can often show you the way!

Pt. England School Never Ceases to Amaze Me!

Finally, look at this post of Anthony Capps, one of my students this fall: You Are Creating Your Intellectual Trail - And It Can Be Googled!.

I would love to have your reactions after you watch and look at this series of blogs. Leave comments!

Digital Storytelling - ECI831 October 13

Readers of my blog and other friends know that I am taking a course for the first time in 45 years. It is Social Media (EC&I 831) taught by Alec Couros(@courosa) at the University of Regina in Saskatchewan, Canada.

Yesterday I posted my reactions to the class on October 20. Today I am writing this post about last week's class on Digital Storytelling. We watched 9 short videos, most from YouTube or Vimeo. A complete list (plus three additional videos that either I missed or were added after the class) can be found on Amy Perry's post Digital Storytelling.

I enjoyed the movies and considered them as examples of different ways of presenting information. That is what my students are working on right now: telling the story about some technology/program/approach that we do not have time to cover in EDM 310. I have urged them to explore new storytelling techniques and I showed them three of these videos as examples of techniques they might adopt as well as urging them to visit Amy's blog.

But what fascinated me the most was the difference in my reaction to the videos and the reactions of the other students in the class. (I am MUCH older). I have no context in which to place these videos. I rarely watch movies. I never watched YouTube until I began teaching EDM 310. I have no historical context of visual materials in which to place these materials. This also happened when I watched the movie Moulin Rouge. I thoroughly enjoyed it and was glad I watched it. If fact, I even watched it a second time with my son-in-law who, throughout the movie, contributed a running dialogue on what movie stimulated this scene, what song was the inspiration for this dialogue or musical rendition, what history was evoked by this or that approach taken in the movie. I had none of that context, and was amazed how "out of it" I was when attempting to understand the full meaning and impact of Moulin Rouge. My children have been telling me that for a long time, especially since I admitted that I have never watched a complete episode of Saturday Night Live, even in the middle of the Sarah Palin "appearances". The same was true in class on October 13.

My intellectual context is books. I do well there. But my students don't. I surveyed them at the beginning of the semester (148 respondents) and at midterm. Most never read a newspaper, or do so only occasionally (59%). Only 10% read a newspaper every day. As for books, 59% read less than a book a month (not counting class assignments). At midterm (109 respondents), 98% said their primary method of gathering information for school work was through Google searches, only one person reported using books or print materials in a library. Twenty nine percent of the students in EDM 310 responding at midterm said they had never been to the University of South Alabama Library for any purpose. Seventy-nine percent said they had not gone to the University Library this semester in order to make use of library materials.

But my students do watch and listen. Ninety-nine percent report that they watch videos with 44% reporting that they watch more than 4 hours of video every week. Fifty-one percent say they listen to music more than 2 hours a day, 27% listening 3 or more hours a day. So the culture of our students is now a listening/watching culture rather than a reading/writing culture, a point that I made in 1995 in my article "A Cultural Revolution: From Books to Silver Discs" which was in the Summer 1995 issue of Metropolitan Universities, a journal of which I was guest editor for that issue.

What is the import of this cultural change? In 1995 I urged my readers to begin to involve their students in the "writing" of multimedia. That is beginning to happen today. In fact, Richard Miller, Chair of the English Department has demonstrated in a marvelous and exciting video exactly how writing with multimedia can be done, providing us with a concrete example in his (what else?) YouTube video This Is How We Dream (Scroll down to see Dr. Miller's two videos.)

What should we learn from the above? I think we must learn that instruction must involve the use of video and audio materials. The reading material we use should be electronic. And portability is essential.

All of this from a delightful and entertaining class on storytelling!

Games and the Educational Establishment

Last night in ECI831 we heard a presentation by Sylvia Martinez on Mobile Games & Learning. Here are my comments:
1. I have always believed that games can be used effectively to attain desired learning outcomes.
2. I think that there are three difficulties in attaining that objective.

  1. We start the discussion of games and learning in the wrong place: with games. Instead, we should first get our thoughts straight about the learning objectives we wish to attain. Then we can examine a variety of ways in which we can achieve those objectives, including games. This means the questions that we ask about games will not be Which are "good" (with no definition of good for what)? or Which are "bad"? or Which can be implemented with little "political" difficulty? Rather we ask: What outcomes are facilitated by which games? Then we have a better chance of "selling" the games to the political system with which we deal. My main argument here: When we start the thinking with the outcomes desired rather that the processes to be used, we concentrate on the product, which is appropriate. Otherwise we would be like a car manufacturer that says design what you think best for something which we will combine with other ideas and declare to be a car. To stay in business the car manufacturer instead says: Here are the specifications of a car that we will produce. Design the components to result in that outcome. We should do no less as educators. But that is not how we normally operate. We think about what we will design as part of a package that will be called "learning" rather than asking what should those who purchase our goods and services know, be able to do or have experienced (more on that in a later post).

  2. As educators, we tend to want to include, or "package" games within our courses. We own the "courses" (the building blocks with no end product objective). Instead, we should recognize that games can be played within and without our courses. If games are effective learning devices, then the outcomes we desire (assuming we have modified our behavior from that described above) can be assessed without regard to whether we included the games in our instruction or not. We thereby reduce, or maybe even eliminate, the political issues that normally surround games.

  3. Even when we specify objectives and identify games which will move a student toward those objectives, or we have a large body of evidence that students have played games and have achieved some or all of our specified learning outcomes, we are often faced with a very serious problem: We may recognize the attainment of valued learning objectives through the playing of games, but the student does not so recognize them. I call this the failure to "own" the competencies attained. This often happens when competencies are attained through activities and procedures which are not culturally approved for learning, i.e. learning was attained through a means other than sitting in a class, listening to information, burping the information back to the deliver of the information to prove that it was retained (at least for a short while), and then rapidly forgetting that information if it is not used. So now I have introduced another argument: that learning outcomes are too often specified as "knowing" what the teacher knows (and therefore thinks is important) rather that meeting the overall learning objectives which should be the focus rather than the objectives that are specified by "courses" whether or not they contribute effectively to an end goal.

So... let us focus on what is important: the end outcomes, the car. Then we can address the issues associated with how we build the car successfully rather than starting with the manufacturing process ("courses") which tend to be the primary focus of educators which "own" those courses and gain their respect and rewards from them.
And... let us not forget that games can be effective learning tools. Our task is to determine whether learning outcomes have been achieved. If games seem to be effective in furthering the attainment of those objectives, we should encourage their use - inside or outside the educational establishment. And not only do we have to certify the attainment of the desired learning outcomes through games, we also have to assist students in acknowledging that the attainment of those objectives is real, even though they were attained through "non-traditional" routes to learning.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Power of Comments on Blogs

On Tuesday September 1 Matthew Needleman visited (via Skype) two of my EDM 310 classes. This was very exciting for me and, I think, for my students as well.

On the previous Thursday, when leaving the TT 11 class, one student mentioned that she had a comment on her blog from "some guy named Matthew that I don't know." Immediately behind her, the student said "Yeah, I had a comment from him too. Isn't that the guy who wrote the movie?" I interjected, "What? You got a comment from the author of 'Mr. Winkle Wakes', Matthew Needleman?" "I think so. How did he find us?" I guessed as to how he found us (and was wrong it turns out). The students left. And then, checking my email I had one from Mr. Needleman volunteering to speak to one of my classes the next Tuesday. I could hardly wait. What serendipity! A chance to demonstrate the power of their assignments to comment on kids blogs (see the post immediately below this one).
In my email thanking Mr. Needleman for his visit, I explained why I assigned my students to comment on other kids blogs (as Mr. Needleman had done for several of my students). I include this here because it is important for my students, and other teachers, to understand the power of the new communications technologies. Oh yes, and all of this is FREE! And thanks also to Mr. Chamberlain (@wmchamberlain) who taught me how important it is to leave comments!

I make the assignment to my students to comment of kids blogs around the world because I want to:
a) Encourage comments on blogs they visit
b) Get them to see what kids can do with blogs (kids - not students in a college class!)
c) Get them to see real classes that use technology - and to understand its role in the curriculum
d) Let them identify teachers who could be helpful to them when they start teaching
e) Get them out of a classroom into the world
f) Use the technologies themselves

And now, take a few minutes and listen to Mr. Needleman and the conversations he had (after a brief introduction) with my students! It skips a bit since, even in our labs, there was insufficient broadband to have a perfect transmission of the video and audio. But that did not matter to TT 11 and TT 2. Enjoy. And don't forget to leave a comment!

video

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Why I Use Google Docs Personally and in My Classes

Google Docs is a suite of "applications" that I use, personally and in my classes, instead of Microsoft's Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. I have been why I have made this change. There are seven reasons.
1. Google Docs is free. Microsoft charges for their suite of tools. And even though individuals and schools have purchased Office, there is a new version every two years or so. In other words, you pay over and over again. Google Docs is free for schools, for students (so they can use them at home, and for teachers' personal computers. That is a lot of money that is being saved!
2. Google Docs meets all the needs of K-12 students, and most of the needs of college students and teachers. Unless you are writing a book, or operating an accounting firm, Google Docs has all the bells and whistles that you need.
3. Google Docs is much better in a public laboratory, and for use by non-experts, than Office. There are too many bells and whistles in Office for these uses and users.
4. Google Docs is an excellent set of tools for collaborative work, unlike Office. An instructor can easily assign collaborative tasks to a group of students. And he or she can quickly determine who did what when!
5. Google Docs can be used collaboratively at a distance. That means students can work collaboratively, in real time, on projects from where ever they are. No face to face meeting is necessary.
6. In Presentations, students can make presentations from home to an audience at school, if necessary. Home with the measles but able to be up and about? A student can easily present his or her project to the class while at home.
7. The student doing the presentation from home can be seen and heard (if he or she has a camera and/or a microphone attached to their computer), or can chat with the class with text.
8. And the opposite to 6 and 7 is also true. Grandmother in Iowa can watch their grandchild present to a class in Alabama. And be heard and seen, and see and hear! And it's all FREE!
9. There are no more "lost" homework assignments. Since the Docs are in the clouds (on Google's servers), they are always accessible form any place in the world where there is an internet connection.
10. If you are in France (or anywhere) and unexpectedly need a document, spreadsheet, database, or presentation that you have done, it's there as long as you have an Internet connection.
11. Presentations done in Google Docs can easily be shared through email, saved as a web page with a URL, and embedded into a blog or web page. It is EASY in Google Docs, much less so with Office.
12. Google Docs includes an excellent Forms tool which allows you to quickly create a questionnaire, gather data, and analyze those data! This has many uses for teachers, students, classes, and regular people.

Is your school using Google Docs? Are you using Google Docs? I strongly recommend them to you. And I have instructional videos to teach you all you need to know about them. You will find them under the heading Instructional Videos by John H Strange on my current EDM 310 Class Blog. If you are a teacher, you can use the videos with your classes if you wish.

Friday, August 28, 2009

I Miss Mary

Mary Irons
My dear friend, Mary Irons, passed away a month ago. She was 96 years old, a lively conversationalist, and until the last year or so of her life, able to go places and do things (most of the time). I was assigned to Mary as Lay Eucharist Minister - to take communion to her two times a month. But before my first visit, another of Mary's friend had to vouch for me. Mary was very particular about her visitors!

We talked for at least an hour on every visit (which became more frequent over the four or five years that we shared Sunday afternoons together). She told me about growing up in Amador County California where her grandfather owned a gold mine. Later she moved to San Francisco, living not too far from Fisherman's Wharf. She had lots of stories to tell, about both places. And about Bermuda, her favorite vacation spot.

Mary was one of the first female graduates from Stanford University. That was where she met her husband, Charles Irons. They moved to Fairhope, Alabama in the early 60's. For many years Charles was Chairman of the Board of Thomas Hospital in Fairhope. Mary was proud, rightly so, of his enormous contributions to the community in this volunteer position.

Mary told me about her daughters, her grandchildren, and I even got to meet her twin great grandchildren one Sunday afternoon. I also got to visit with two of her three daughters in person, and had several long conversations with the third daughter.

Mary's Orchid IMary loved to look at my photographs. She even came to an exhibit of mine (with Jeannine Griffin) at the University of South Alabama. One of my photographs in that show was of her orchid. I named the photograph "Mary's Orchid I" Mary provided a name for a photograph of thatch I took in Mexico which was also in that show. She called it "Dirty Asparagus." I loved that!
Dirty Asparagus - a photograph as named by Mary Irons

It has been a month now since Mary died. My Sundays are not the same. But I am thankful for all the afternoons we did share together. Thank you Mary!

Friday, July 10, 2009

What Makes a Teacher "Technologically Literate"? Must All Teachers Be "Technologically Literate"?

Two questions have been floating around in my head this week: How can we determine whether a teacher is "technologically literate"? and Must all teachers be "technologically literate"?

The first question is the result of thinking about the second which was the central issue addressed in a post by Karl Fisch. In 2007, Karl Fisch, author of The Fischbowl and Director of Technology for Arapahoe High School in Littleton, Colorado, posted an essay entitled "Is It Okay to Be A Technologically Illiterate Teacher?" His answer was: "If a teacher today is not technologically literate - and is unwilling to make the effort to learn more - it's equivalent to a teacher 30 years ago who didn't know how to read and write."

If we believe that all of our teachers must be, or rapidly become, "technology literate teachers", what is meant by that? I have posed this question to the students in the required educational technology class(EDM310) which I direct and teach (in part). I have asked them to respond in a wiki I have created called "techliterateteacher." I invite you to do so as well. If you have never used a wiki, follow the instructions that I have included on the first page of the wiki. The first page cannot be changed, but all others can be modified by any registered user. It is easy to register. A link is located on the upper left of the wiki.

Since the students in EDM310 are not "technology literate" when they begin the course (and probably not at the end of the course either), I have put together a series of videos, blog posts and other materials for them to read and watch as they seek to address the central question of what does it take to be a "technology literate teacher"? You may also find these materials beneficia. Currently they can be found in my EDM310 Class Blog for the Summer 09 semester but soon these materials will move to a blog of their own.

The second question, "Must all teachers be technologically literate?" seemed to me, at first, to be easily answered with a resounding "Yes!" But after some reflection, I now think it is a legitimate question which deserves serious consideration before I leap to an answer. So I invite you to ponder this question as well. Whatever our answer, I assure you that it is certain that all teachers will NOT become "technologically literate" in the near future. Maybe a better question would be "Should our goal be that all teachers become 'technologically literate'?"

So join me in thinking about these two questions. I have added an additional page on the wiki for the second question.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Letter to Editor Published

A shortened version of my response to Mr. Welsh was published on the editorial page of the USAToday on Monday June 29, 2009.

You can go to the link above to find my letter as well as one other published on the subject, or you can read my letter below.

Tech-ify classrooms
John Strange, Professor of Professional Studies, University of South Alabama - Daphne, Ala.

No one can stop the communications revolution. Not parents, not school rules, not punishment by teachers, not measures yet to be devised. So, let's look for the positives.

At least students are writing. In 1995, I wrote that we had entered a new era in which students were no longer reader/writers but listener/watchers. I urged teachers to find ways to get students to "write" with multimedia so that they contributed to the products being listened to and watched. That is beginning to happen.

Students are inventing a new language, which some don't like. But it is inventing, and it sets a context for discussions of creativity and language that provide a marvelous teaching opportunity — if we are prepared to take advantage of it.

So let's teach with technology. If we honor the use of new communication tools, we are much more likely to get cooperative students. But if we try to ban these devices, we will fail.

Teachers cannot teach the same way they taught five years ago. We have to rewrite our lesson plans and learn some new things (including texting). We have to learn from the students.

How exciting — we can be learners again, not just teachers.

Posted at 12:08 AM/ET, June 29, 2009 in Education - Letters, Letter to the editor

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Response to Patrick Welsh

The commentary below was written in response to "Txting away ur education" by Patrick Welsh, an English teacher at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Va.
It is an opinion piece in USATODAY June 23, 2009.

My summary of Mr. Welsh's argument is as follows, but I suggest you read his article to form your own opinion as to what he says.

Mr. Welsh's argument (as read by me):
1. War need to be decalared on cellphones' text messaging capabilities.
2. Texting has become an obsession.
3. Rules exist to prevent use of cell phones in school, but they are not enforced consistently.
4. Parents even send text messages to students while in class.
5. Texting undermines a student's ability to focus and to learn (no source for this finding cited in the opinion piece)
6. Texting creates anxiety
7. Texting causes fragmentation of our thoughts and ideas.
8. Texting undermines the time tested writing, thinking, critiquing and rewriting process.
9. Texting (and its ilk) causes students to respond with quick answers, not an understanding of scientific principles.
10. Texting interrupts attention which is necessary for thinking
11. There needs to be a "crackdown" on texting by parents, teachers and school administrators.


My response:

Despite help from parents (turn off texting on student phones), enforcing the school rules, instituting punishments by teachers and/or the schools and other measures that will be devised, you will not stop the new communications revolution. Beheadings for having books didn't close down Gutenberg presses either. And soon (if not already), students will not just be texting, but will be taking movies and sending them instantly to YouTube with their new 3G S iPhones.

So lets look for the positives.
At least students are writing. I wrote in 1995 that we had entered a new era in which students were no longer reader/writers but listener/watchers. I urged, in print and speeches across the country, for teachers to find ways to get students to "write" with multimedia so that they contributed to the products being listened to and watched. That is beginning to happen.
Writing with video is now easy and fast. All you have to do is focus, push a button, push another button, trim (2 seconds if necessary), push another button, wait 1 minute and or and you will have taken and published a video that can and will be watched worldwide. (These are the steps to take on the new iPhone, procedures undoubtedly already being used by students just five days after the new iPhone launch).
Students are inventing. A new language which you don't like. But it is inventing! And it sets a context for discussion of creativity and of language that provides a marvelous teaching opportunity - if we are prepared to take advantage of it!
Some teachers are effectively incorporating texting into their classrooms. Watch this very interesting YouTube video entitled The Twitter Experiment- UT Dallas found at http://tinyurl.com/mefmbm to learn how texting and tweeting can become central to the learning process.

So what should we do? Call out the troops? Ban the devices? Behead students if they are caught texting?

I would say ABSOLUTELY NOT!

Instead let's teach with the technology. If you honor the use of the new communication tools for some of what you do, you are much more likely to get agreement from your students not to use them when they are not useful to your teaching/learning objectives. If your try to ban them entirely, you will fail.

Teachers cannot teach the same way they taught five years ago. Yes, we have to rewrite our lesson plans. Yes, we have to learn some new things (including the language of texting). Yes, we have to learn from the students. But how exciting! We can be learners again, not just teachers!

You will not stop texting and the new communication tools. Capture them for your purposes!

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Important Question: Part 2 of A Dialogue

This is Part 2 of a Dialogue with Ben Grey and Respondents. Please read the previous post on this blog if you have not done so as well as Mr. Gray's Blog and the comments to his post Why Technology?: that is under discussion here.

So let's get back to the important question: What do we want our students to know, be able to do and have experienced. In other words, what are our objectives.
Let's start with CONTENT, what we want them to know.
Mr. William Chamberlain responded to Mr. Grey in this way:
"I used to believe that 'Content is King' and prided myself in trying to get as much material covered as possible. Now I realize that content is ubiquitous, what we do with it is much more important."
My argument is similar. Specific content should not be the objective of schools, although content specialists think that THEIR content is THE content that students should know. No, content is the context in which our primary objectives must be conducted. The choice of which content cannot be universally mandated. It must be chosen and I will include the ability to choose content wisely later in this post.
If specific CONTENT is eliminated from our list of objectives, then we are faced with the question of what content do we use for the context in which desired skills are to be demonstrated. I would argue that we use the content which is the most likely to be a successful context for learning the desired skills. Some possibilities include: the learner's previously known content; the learner's content in which they have demonstrated an interest or even a "passion"; the content of the teacher when the teacher can contentedly share their content with non-specialists as they learn; the content which a teacher can use to excite and engage learners; a community agreed upon content. And there are others. But I would hope that the learner would play a major role in the selection of the content. I think it works better that way!
There must be many contents for context. One of our objectives would surely be the ability to transfer skills across content areas, or contexts. This implies multiple contexts.
So what are the SKILLS we seek to teach or develop in our students? I would add that my list spills over into ATTITUDES.
1. One would be to be able to make choices about content in which to demonstrate skills. Mr. Peter Papas puts it this way in a response to the post by Ben Gray under discussion: "Shouldn't our students have access to the technologies that allow them to create, collaborate and share their thinking on subjects that matter to them?" (my emphasis)
2. To be able to exhibit skills in a variety of content content contexts, even those in which there is little or no interest
3. To be able to identify
4. To be able to collect information
5. To be able to classify information
6. To be able to describe
7. To be able to compare
8. To be able to contrast
9. To be able to make an argument
10. To be able to effectively argue against the argument we have proposed
11. To be creative
12. To be curious, that is to value questions
13. To consider questions more important than answers
14.To see answers as preliminary steps to more questions
15.To communicate effectively using the cultural tools that are prevalent in the society in which the student operates. In our current culture the hierarchy is video, audio, kinetics, written text. A warning: don't overemphasize writing even though that may be our cultural norm
16. To make contributions to the content of a listening/watching world rather than to just be a consumer. In other words, we want our students to create products in video, audio, pictures, graphics and internet delivered text. Or, to add to the information pool soon to be available in "all places at all times." (Gutenberg II, 1978)
17. To effectively reflect upon their own learning and to make adjustments as appropriate
18. to be able to evaluate their own as well as what remains unknown

And now, what do we want our students to EXPERIENCE? I use this word because there are many things we do in school which are experiences that we want to have an impact later. An example: an art appreciation course or a music appreciation course. Appreciation is even in the title! So what do we mean? I used to say in speeches that I gave that we wanted to increase the chance that our students, if in Washington, would go to the National Gallery or the Phillips Gallery rather than visit 14th street (then the red light district. I don't know whether it is still there now - but it is somewhere in Washington).
It seems to me that we must START our answer to this question with TECHNOLOGY.
Peter Papas says that our students "have the right to participate in the digital age." Absolutely. Maybe I should say ABSOLUTELY! The ability to have access to and make use of technology will determine to whom the rewards and benefits will be distributed. In fact, that is already happening.
You will have your own lists. But we must make the case for what we want our students to learn: what we want them to know, be able to do and have experienced.
If we do that, the tool of technology will be widely, and I hope, well used.

A Dialogue and Response to Ben Grey

My understanding of your argument in your blog post Why Technology?:

1. Technology use in education is being questioned.
2. Technology use in education is or may be cut.
3. Technology is expensive
4. Technology has not been proven to affect test scores
4a. Test schools may not be the correct outcomes, but they are the desired outcomes of the public and politicians
5. A defense of technology must be developed to protect budgets and personnel.

Response:
1. As educators, I would argue that our first obligation is to engage the question: What are the learning outcomes that we need and want? The failure to confront this question directly is the root of our problem, I would argue - not which tools are the best in achieving the "wrong" outcome.
2. Then we can debate how we allocate monies among the contending tools.
3. Technology is only a tool
4. We spend lots of money on other tools: books, pencils, paper, classrooms
5. What evidence do we have that they affect test scores?
6. We do have evidence that teaching to the test improves test scores.
7. What tools do we need?
8. My immediate answer (but I will think more about it) is that I must have these tools:
8a. a device to connect to the internet
8b. a connection to the internet
8c. tools to collect and disseminate information in all of its current forms:
8c1 text (so pencils, paper, or "text machines". I do think we are beyond typewriters!)
8c2 sound (so audio recorders of some sort)
8c3 video (since they are able to record audio we might eliminate separate audio collector)
8c4 still pictures (vii and viii are coming together; new devices are on the horizon that will do all of the above - for less than $ 500 plus connection fees)
8c5 I did not mention books. If we had to do without technology or books, which would we eliminate? Books, of course. We are now living in a listening/ watching culture, not a reading/writing one. So out with books. A district in Colorado has already done this!
9.After doing that, we have money for technology. But the technology should belong to the user, not the school. That's where Obama's initiatives come in. Wire the USA and get technology in the hands of users.
10. And "technology teachers". I would eliminate them as well. Every teacher should know how to use technology. Students mostly do already. We could use technology coaches for a while, or technology support teachers, but not labs and not "technology teachers."
So there is a quick look at my Strange response. I will expand on my remarks later and let you know where I print them (not in a book, but in a free blog).