Thursday, September 28, 2006

Online Conversations: Good Pedagogy or New Technology:


I recently heard a person describe a new conversation tool that the person is helping to develop. The more I heard about the tool, the more I realized that what was needed was not a new technology tool but good pedagogy.


As teachers, we create the online learning environment. We orchestrate how students will respond to questions or prompts. We set our high expectations for how students will respond. We assess them on thoughtful well-documented responses, not on the number of responses. We expect them to read and understand what other students have written and to respond by adding new information or exploring different aspects of the topic. We, the educators, make online conversations to be effective learning experiences, not the technology we are using.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Analyzing Technology Integration Professional Development Workshops



Where is your professional development focused?


What percentage of your professional development focuses specifically

on learning a subject area skill through technology?

learning a new software program where most of the focus is on the program?

(Time each part of the workshop and then look at how much time is spent on learning the program and how much time is spent in talking about student learning, seeing examples of student learning, or developing classroom materials)


What percentage of your professional development focuses on why this is important to the students' learning, supplies numerous real student examples and shows multiple ways to improve a given content skill through this technology?


What percentage of your professional development focuses on the teachers developing specific material for their classroom? (The lower the number, probably the least likely they will use it.)


What percentage of your professional development focuses on implementation issues? (If a workshop does not help teachers to foresee possible problems then if teachers have a problem, they may stop using that technology.)


Does any workshop that deals with a specific technology only teach the most commonly used classroom aspects of the program and start with the most commonly used one first? (People falter in their focus very quickly if they do not think that what they will be learning is useful to them in the classroom.)



Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Top 10 reasons not to use professional collaboration program



10 I don't have time to check the online site since I'm too buy creating materials.

9 My stuff is not good enough to share.

8 I don't want anyone else using my great writing technique.

7 I've heard that blogs and other collaborative programs like that have porn so I'm staying away from them.

6 Othere subject area teachers don't teach like I do so their materials or ideas won't help me.

5 I've used the same materials for the last 20 years and I won't change now.

4 I have all the transparencies I need.

3 Once I close the door, it is my private world.

2 I am an expert in my subject area.

1 My students like to listen to me lecture each period.


Friday, September 15, 2006

A Shakespeare Play in English Class: Then and Now with Technology

I grew up in a text based school environment. We read Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream word by word, line by line, page by page, scene by scene. I struggled just to understand what was happening, let alone the themes of the play.

Today's students can



Listen to the play as read by professionals


Watch commercial products on DVD


Watch parts of local productions' emovies of it


See pictures of how various directors “dress” a character to portray the character


Do an online text analysis to see which theme words show up where in the play


Make an emovie about their interpretation of the play


Take pictures of students doing poises from various scenes


Use concept mapping to compare MSND with another play such as Man of La Mancha


Find poems online that have a common theme and compare them


Have a videoconference panel discussion with other classes about how well MSDN relates to their own lives



Read blogs about various interpretations of the play


Make a 1 minute movie version of each scene


Download the text of a scene and rewrite it as if based in the school or someplace in the community


Compare their acting out of a scene with that of another class in a distant location with videoconferencing


Interview an actor or director who has done MSND via videoconferencing


Most of these technology-infused activities allow the students to be fully engaged and to be doing higher level thinking. Are English teachers in your school text based or technology based? You can use the first column as a check list. Teachers can help their students to better understand any play through technology.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Analyzing Visuals in School Learning and Promoting Elmo and Smartboard Use

I have been a fish on dry land during all of my schooling. I am a visual learner in a non-visual learning environment. I took notes and more important, drew symbols or shapes, to help me “see” what the teacher was saying. I can remember only a few subjects or courses in which visuals were used (not counting Friday Social Studies movies). In classes that did visuals, the visuals were often used to decorate the written information. Teachers did not use visuals as the primary source to communicate information.


As I reflect on my experiences in public education, I realize that the amount of visuals that are used in schooling is inversely proportional to the grade level. The greatest number of visuals are used in the lowest grade levels. Likewise, the least amount of visuals are used in the highest grade levels. The graph represents my view of the use of visuals in education.

Why do written materials carry more meaning in education than visual materials?


Teachers can use devices like an Elmo or a digit camera hooked up to a projection device to show visuals in the classroom such as students' drawings of a scene from a story, a handful of different seeds that student groups sort as the other students watch, having student groups show the similarities between different geometric shapes, and combining hand drawn webs to show the big view about a country. Teachers and students can use a Smartboard or equivalent to make learning more visual.


Please help your students to “see” your content and express their answers visually.


Thursday, September 07, 2006

Better Learning and Expressing of Learning through Visual Literacy

Our cave ancestors were visually literate; their lives depended on how well they could visually read the world around them. Today our students are visually literate within their world of “electronic images” such as TV, videogames, and the Web; they want to be visually literate in their school which is often devoid of visuals.


One major component of 21st century skills is Digital-Age Literacy. This literacy consists of scientific/technological literacy; visual literacy; and cultural literacy. Visual literacy is the ability to see, to understand, and ultimately to think, create, and communicate graphically. Students can use images that are realistic or abstract. They can use an image by itself or any image with words or sound. They can use one image or a series of images. They can use visuals to express their voice, their views, and their conceptualization of a information. They can learn to read and express themselves from the knowledge level up to Bloom's evaluation level using visuals. They can work with visuals individually or in groups. However, the ability to read a visual depends on the student's background knowledge. We can help students to learn visually in school through providing them with a variety of images.


We can start with helping students learn to read and to express themselves with still a single visual. The students can:

  • Identify the basic content of the picture

  • Get information from the picture

  • Put an item into its context through a visual

  • Learn new words from visuals.

  • Analyze an image for its media impact

  • Depict the meaning of written materials through a created or chosen visual..

  • Write about a topic due to the power of a single visual

  • Analyze information from a chart or graph


When teachers and students use a series of visuals, students increase in their learning through in-depth analysis and understanding. A group of visuals may be in visual series where the main object and background change or visual series where only the main object changes. Studens can:

  • Tell a story through structured visuals

  • Write through structured visuals

  • Show changes over time using a series of visuals

  • Represent the many steps in a process or an event

  • Compare and contrast several images of the same event

  • Ilustrate the many different perspectives of a single event through many visuals

  • Show a discrepancy or misconception through multiple images.


Teachers can help students to read visuals from other cultures, countries, and time periods. Students can:

  • See up-to-the-moment images from a country

  • View many images rapidly to get a visual overview of a country's geography or of a topic

  • Compare how different cultures deal with the same event through visual comparisions

  • Contrast paintings of the same event from different time periods

  • Discover that a visual may look like one thing when really it is portraying something very different unless they know the culture or time period.


Teachers and students can obtain and produce visuals easily. They can use:

  • A digital camera or digital camcorder to record class, school, and community images

  • Inspiration like programs to create graphic organizers that consist of visuals

  • Word processor and insert graphics from the Web or from the digital camera

  • Use iMovies (Mac) or Window Movie Maker (PC) to produce their own movies.

  • Web sources such as Google.com and Flickr.com for still images

  • Web sources as a GoogleEarth for geographic images

  • Web resources such as Youtube.com for movies


Teachers can employ meaningful visuals in the classroom and can have students express themselves visually so that students can demonstrate their deep knowledge about a topic.


Some Resources:


http://flickr.com/creativecommons/by-nc-2.0/

Shows photos that can be used by students and teachers as long as they give credit to the authors (about 56,000 photos)


http://www.jakesonline.org/visual_lit.htm

Focuses on the use of Flickr


http://www.woophy.com/map/index.php

Allows students and teachers to locate images by geographical location


http://www.ivla.org/portal/intro.htm

Is the site for the International Visual Literacy Association



http://www.museumca.org/picturethis/visual.html

Has many visual literacy activities especially historical photos


http://k-8visual.info/

Demonstrates good examples for K-8

Assessment in Technology Rich Classrooms: Accountability through EPortfolios

Educators can insure a comprehensive and an in-depth accountability of each student's progress toward specified standards through the use of eportfolios (electronic portfolios) that are a student's self-selected purposeful limited collection of evidence toward the progress of a standard.


Teachers realize that eportfolios show accountability since the eportfolios focus on the teacher, school, district, state or national standard. A ninth grade English teacher may structure the eportfolio around the four New York State English Language Arts Standards. The teacher decides which of the standards and which of the subcomponents the students will be responsible for.


Educators use eportfolios since they usually are very comprehensive. The New York State English Language Arts (NYS ELA) 11th grade Regents may only briefly measure three out of four standards while an eportfolio can measure all four.


Not only are eportfolios comprehensive but they can show more in-depth work than a final or state benchmark. The NYS ELA Regents only four standards-based tasks. Based on the teachers' expectations, the students may have to include evidence of many different subcomponents of any one standard or they may have to provide several examples of a particular subcomponent.


Students develop life long skills in accountability as they do eportfolios since they select which of their work best document their own progress. The teachers select the standards and the subcomponents and the students select which of their many already done works or artifacts they will use for their documentation. The evidence is not prescribed by the teacher. Students are accountable for their own documentation and the selection of which work provides greater accountability for the students.


Students show their ability to understand their teachers' criticism of their work and to make the indicated changes in eportfolios. The students can demonstrate their changes through such techniques as a different color coding for their changes or by labeling their changes on the side of a project. They can do side by side comparisons of the original work and their thought-out revisions. They see their own growth in very obvious ways.


Likewise, students demonstrate accountability by reflecting on their work for each standard. Often students use a modified KWL which is KLW; they state what they knew before, what they learned about this standard, and what more they want to learn about it. Their reflections demonstrate their ability to be accountable for their own learning.


Some teachers use eportfolios as ongoing accountability during the year. Students periodically review their eportfolios such as on a quarterly basis to decide if they have better evidence for any given standard; if so, they put in the new evidence.


Students who know what they have to include in their eportfolio will see class work, assignments, and projects as contributing to a bigger picture of learning. They focus on the standards. They think of the quality of work they have already done and decide if they need to do better in future projects.


Teachers often use an eportfolio as a final since the eportfolio provides a comprehensive and in-depth accountability for the standards. This thorough assessment provides a better picture of student learning than an on-demand two hour final. Also, since the teachers have already seen the original work and the revisions, the teachers focus on the reflections to see what the students have identified as their learning and areas for improvement's students have already done most of the work, with the exception of the reflections, that will be included in the eportfolio during the year so their final task is to compile the eportfolio.


Educators usually include in the eportfolio template a summary page in which they provide a rating and brief comment for each standard for the student. This summary page provides the next year's teachers with a solid base line on the students' progress toward the standards.


Teachers have a choice about what eportfolio media they want to use. They can use general programs such as word processing, PowerPoint, webpages, or linking programs. They may want to use a non-commercial web-based eportfolio application such as SAKAI/OSP or they can might want to use commercial eportfolio programs such as LiveText or StreamTask. All of these programs will help provide student accountability.


When teachers start to use eportfolios in the class, they will want to start small with one standard and decide what different types of evidence they want to see. They will make sure that students do several different examples of these types of evidence as part of their regular classroom work or homework. They will show the students a completed eportfolio and model the reflection process.


Students do well on achieving standards when they have the accountability of eportfolios.


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Visual Literacy: Solid Education or New Technology Focus

I do many presentations and workshops on topics such as visual literacy. I am constantly amazed at how teachers want to hear about the newest and best technology but they do not want to hear about good educational approaches that involve technology. If I mention a new-to-them website such as a site that allows them to find pictures from various locations such as http://www.woophy.com/map/index.php there is excitement in their eyes. I hear an “Awww” from the audience. If, on the other hand, I show them how them how they can use digital images to develop higher level thinking in their students in their subject area, I see the boredom. They will admit that they have not done any of these in their classroom and that they did not know about scaffolding within visuals. They even admit that they did not even know of these uses but their eyes still gloss over as I go over the educational-based learning approaches to using visuals as I am using vivid images.


Visual literacy, particularly using visuals of all sorts to learn from and to express learning is such a rich area for the classroom P-university. Visuals can be used to teach new vocabulary(body parts for health), to clear misconceptions (is a trench a little curved area on the side of the road or a very deep hole used in wars?), to show concepts that are hard to understand (chaos theory abstraction vs shoreline from high above), to promote “what next” or “what if” thinking (two pictures and predict what will happen next) to show changes (a plant growing over time), to see current up-to-the-moment culture from another country, to compare two items (such as two flowers).


Create a visually rich learning environment that does not depend on new technology!




Tuesday, September 05, 2006

School Communication and Collaboration: A simple solution







Recently I had an emergency trip to the hospital. I was infuriated when I was asked the same medical background question by five different people. There seemed to be a lack of communication.


I visited with a high school teacher who was bemoaning the lack of communication in his school. I thought back to being in a very small department and in a large department; both had a lack of communication.


Why do schools not use an online collaboration tool to communicate within the school? All announcements can be sent out and archived for future reference. All forms can be accessed at anytime. Surveys can be given out and the results instantaneously produced for everyone to see. Department meeting notes can be posted so that future meetings do not cover the same ground. Progress or lack of it on long term curriculum projects can seen easily. Teams can keep track of “at-risk” individuals more closely.


It is time to change the present school culture to be an information sharing and growing one.