Sharing Out EdReform Ideas on REBEL Day

On the heels of the wave of negativity around education reform, Tom Whitby invited teachers with an online presence to take part in a Blogging Day in which teachers would write about their views of education reform.
He called it REBEL (Reform from Educational Bloggers Links of Educational Suggestions) Day and it was yesterday. Tom and others then invited folks to share their links via a Wallwisher site, which is now jammed to the gills with more than 100 posts.
I added a podcast yesterday, in which I tried to see the movement of Ed Reform through the eyes of me as a parent, more than me as a teacher, and I think it helped me frame my own experience (my kids get loaded with worksheets).

(Access the wall directly)
Peace (on the REBEL Day), Kevin

Report from Massachusetts New Literacies, part two

Yesterday, I wrote about our keynote speaker at the Massachusetts New Literacies Teacher-Leader Institute. Tom Daccord inspired us to think about learning and communication in the changing world. Today, I am going to do a post of lists that came out of the day-long institute on Friday (which was a follow-up to a week in June).

Some online tools and sites mentioned (within my earshot)

Ways NOT to run a hand-on session as a presenter (me)

  • Don’t have enough wireless IP addresses for everyone so not everyone is connected
  • Don’t have break-out rooms — do it in a large room with other workshops so there is a lot of noise
  • Jam people around a small table
  • Don’t have  a projector for your presentation
  • Be forced to “tell” not “show”

What future Mass New Literacies sessions should include (notes from my smaller group)

  • Less cool tools and more bigger picture on New Literacies
  • More interactive work
  • Compelling examples of student digital work
  • Reflections/stories from other teachers
  • A database of New Literacies examples

We need to be (a sharing out to the larger group):

  • Getting technology out of the lab and into the classroom
  • Using “Just in Time” technology sharing for colleagues
  • Bringing administrators on board — sets tone for the entire faculty
  • Dealing with “access” issues for teachers and students
  • Finding levels of comfort to transfer knowledge and skills (learning curve)
  • Matching the right tool to content standard/learning
  • Learning more from each other — reflections from teachers
  • Connecting with other schools — collaboration as a way to learn
  • Grappling with filtering issues — to be open or to be closed?
  • Needing future conversations: cell phones/iPads
  • Reviewing acceptable use policies — reflect the current environment? Or outdated?
  • Creating a database of classroom examples
  • Sharing out our Professional Development materials with each other
  • Using time at staff meeting to share out a cool tool
  • Bringing students and their digital work to School Committees, which make policy

Peace (from the PD),

Report from Massachusetts New Literacies, part one

tom daccord

Yesterday, we had a follow-up session to our week-long Massachusetts New Literacies Teacher-Leader Institute that we held back in June (I am one of the teacher leaders). We had about 100 participants return yesterday, and my hope is to slowly reflect a bit on some of things that took place. Here is part one, the keynote address entitled Building Complex Communications.

Tom Daccord (@thomasdaccord), of EdTechTeacher, took the stage and immediately energized us with a long-view look at how literacies in the workplace have shifted since the advent of the Personal Computer and what that shift towards critical thinking skills should be doing to our teaching practices in the classroom. Tom called these skills as the Complex Communications (the ability to explain a complex idea to others) and Expert Thinking (identifying a new problem and finding a solution to it).

Tom notes that employers “demand and expect that employees come to the workplace with these skills. ” That means that we, as teachers, have be setting the groundwork for critical thinking, and while computers can do a lot for us (and in fact,  have reduced the need for much manual labor), it is our human ability to be literate on a social level (read emotions, have empathy, etc.)  and make different kinds of connections between disparate information to find solutions that is the key.

“Put a computer in a situation with no new data. It will flounder. It cannot adapt. What can adapt (to situations where there is not new data)? We can,” Tom explained.

He then launched into a discussion about the importance of teaching multi-modal literacy, and of finding ways to use an authentic audience for students as writers and producers of content. The world will demand these skills of them as adults, and we need to foster these skills in them as young people, he explained.

“We’re missing the cultural shift going on,” Tom said, explaining the rift between the literacies of the lives of young people outside of the classroom and the way we teach them in the classroom. This system “relegates publication only to the eyes of the teacher” when there are so many ways for students to step up and publish to the world.

Tom then exorted us — the participants of the New Literacies movement who were in that room with him — to be the ones who make the change that needs to occur in the classrooms, in that it won’t happen as a top-down approach. Instead, it needs to be teacher-to-teacher.

“Real change happens horizontally. It happens colleague-to-colleague. It be you, going back to your school,” he said, and this message helped frame the rest of the day’s work around technology and classroom practice.

I’ll try to share out parts 2 and 3 over the next few days.

Peace (in the literate world),

The Return of the Massachusetts New Literacies Institute

Tomorrow, I am off to a follow-up session of the Massachusetts New Literacies Teacher-Leadership Institute, which began in June with a week-long exploration of technology, writing, and reading across the content areas. I am one of 10 teacher leaders of the institute, which has been funded by our state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. (The voicethread above is a collection of my reflections from the summer. I’ll be adding to it after tomorrow’s sessions, too).

The focus of the institute has been to help teams of teachers from across the state to undertstand the possibilities of technology, plan out curricular units, plement those units and then reflect on how to share that expertise with other teachers. The week in June was exciting but I wonder how the follow-up sessions (this is one of three over the year) will go. Will folks have dropped out of the program? Will they have begun implementation of their ideas? Will they have met hurdles that are insurmountable? Or seemingly insurmountable? (Read this great post by Troy Hicks about dealing with technology issues when trying to use technology.)

Tomorrow, the day begins with a keynote address by Tom Daccord, of the EdTechTeacher site and organization.  He seems like someone with an interesting background — history and technology — so I am hoping he sets the day forward with a positive message.

Then, we shift into a Cool Tools Smackdown (I hate that term and lobbied to have something different) so that the folks can choose which tool they want to learn more about. I am doing a bit on Prezi. Others are doing Glogster, Voicethread, Dabbleboard, Weebly, Animoto, Voki and others.

Finally, the afternoon will be time for some reflection and planning for the next phase of the project. Hopefully, we’ll be able to re-energize the crowd and inspire them to inspire others back at their schools. That’s the whole idea behind the Massachusetts New Literacies Teacher-Leader Institute.

Peace (in the follow-ups),

Trying My Hand at an Infographic

(go to infographic directly)
If you’re like me, you’ve no doubt noticed not only the influx of infographics all over the Web which highlight the power of sharing data in a visual way. I find many infographics fascinating and I keep trying to figure out a meaningful way to bring that concept into my classroom. I know you could do it easily enough in math, and probably in science, too, but it’s not always an easy fit in Language Arts. So, I keep thinking and mulling, and I know we can do something later this year around the Voices on the Gulf project.

The other day, I thought I would give the creation of one a try with some results of a survey I took of my sixth graders, a site on the web that turns data into graphs, and Glogster as my presentation platform. The Infographic I created is all about the sleep patterns of my students (we are going to read an article about sleep and young people and digital devices next week). I’m not completely happy with it, but for the first attempt, I think it came out good enough. It’s not as snazzy as those I often see in my RSS reader.

Meanwhile, Larry Ferlazzo had a great link to a post entitled “Some Awesome Free Tools to Make Infographics” (there is something to be said for straight-forward blog post titles, isn’t there?). There are some great tools there, as well as at Larry’s long list of Infographic resources.

Peace (with information),

A Stopmotion Workshop Teaser/Prototype

I’ve been invited to be a presenter at what could be a very interesting session at the National Writing Project‘s Annual Meeting in November down in Orlando. NWP is teaming up with MAKE Magazine to offer a session on technical writing and Do-It-Yourself exploration.

Here’s the blurb from the three-hour working session called NWP Makes! Making and Technical Writing (which I see is now completely full):

A special Saturday event hosted by the NWP Digital Is project’s partnership with Make magazine. Participants will be invited to explore the connections between making and technical writing through hands-on projects and shared reflection. Come to learn about the making/crafting/tinkering/DIY movement and explore connections to your own practice.

I’ve been asked to do a one-hour session on stopmotion moviemaking. After my small group makes their movie, their task is going to be to document what we did in technical, expository writing. So, they experience it and then explain it for others.

Yesterday, I used some wiki stix (actually, they were knock-off stix and were a pain to use — note to self for workshop: get the real ones) and made a prototype movie that also became a teaser of sorts for the NWP Makes! session. I was trying to make the dude talk (I used Audacity to change my voice) and that is hard to do, I found out!

Right now, I am trying to come with “story” scenarios for 10 people to make a movie around in an hour. An hour is not long when you are shooting frame by frame. I have some ideas, though.

Peace (on the make),

PS — If you are interested in stopmotion animation, I created a website with hints for teachers and students. Go to Making Stopmotion Movies.