Thursday, November 13, 2008


TechYes has a video that explains their philosophy of project-based technology literacy assessment while showing authentic assessment in action. TechYes is not a free program, although the cost is not that high, but I think it is worth looking at in terms of modeling a way to bring technology literacy into your classroom or school. TechYes is part of GenYes.

In light of what we have been learning about technology, collaboration and assessment, I would like TEAM students to watch the video, and then click on the Assessment link. After viewing, please leave a comment on this blog. What can you glean from this presentation that you can incorporate into your teaching?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Pedro Noguera: How Many Barack Obamas are there in YOUR School?

Phrases and statements that caught my attention from Pedro Noguera:
"How many Barack Obamas are in our schools?"
"Students who are headed somewhere will behave differently than students who are headed nowhere."
"The easiest way to teach is the hardest way to learn." (As Alan November says: [a lot of] teachers were paper-trained!)
"Cemetery Teaching"

...which brings me to Pedro Noguera. On Friday I attended and presented at the Council for Prejudice Reduction conference. Pedro Noguera, Ph.D., professor at NYU, Executive Director of the Metropolitan Center for Urban Education and co-Director of the Institute for the study of Globalization and Education in Metropolitan Settings, was the keynote speaker. He was fascinating and I am sharing my hand-written notes here from his presentation, (no Internet connection at conference).

Pursuing Equity and Excellence in Princeton: 10 Principles to Promote Achievement for All Students

How do we do something about racial inequality in schools? Racial inequity breeds resentment.

Challenge 1: Equity vs. Excellence: Competing or Compatible Goals? We have to challenge the normalization of failure. Race and class should not predict achievement. We can't only send the most privileged to the good colleges. How many Barack Obamas are in our schools? We are good at measuring and sorting kids, but not so good at cultivating the talent out of kids who do not have the privileged life (i.e., no private tutors, English not the primary language, single parent families, etc.). We can't judge our schools by how good we are doing with the most privileged. It doesn't mean we get rid of honors/AP, but we need both. We have to start with a vision and a plan. The biggest obstacle is believing it can't be done. Schools have to accept responsibility as kids' educators and stop blaming the parents and the kids.
We also need to increase access to and support for rigorous courses.

Challenge 2: Educational leaders must be the guardians of equity. The common practice is to assign our least experienced teachers to the low achievers and the best teachers to our honors classes. Did you ever notice that parents won't allow 'bad teachers' to teach gifted classes? Parents of low achievers don't necessarily speak out -- they may not even speak English, and they are easy to discourage.

We have to encourage kids and push them to take harder courses and give them the support they need to succeed in those courses. Homework is an equity issue; kids might not have computers or parental support. As educators, we have to be willing to challenge each other to make change.

Challenge 3: The academic success of immigrant students is contingent upon how they and their families are treated. Immigrant students are the exception to the inequity pattern. They tend to be over-represented among successful and at risk students.
We need to have cultural competence among our staff. ELL classes should not be used to deny students learning opportunities. Schools serving immigrant children need a bi-lingual and bi-cultural staff as well as have relationships with social services agencies that serve immigrant groups. We have to remember that kids assimilate into our culture faster than their parents - and sometimes parents don't assimilate at all. Some of these kids are high risk for joining gangs where they become part of a culture. We need to find ways to make these kids part of our school culture. Immigration is both our past and our future. Immigrants do the work other Americans refuse to do and they do it for low wages. This is a big issue on Long Island. Supreme Court decision: even undocumented kids have the right to go to school.

Challenge 4: Demystify school success. Students who are headed somewhere will behave differently than students who are headed nowhere. When kids have a clear sense of where they are going, they don't make the big mistakes, such as teen pregnancy. We have to teach kids how to 'code switch' - kids that are not white and middle class have to become bi-cultural, they need to learn social skills, how they should look and speak. It's not fair, but it's reality.

Challenge 5: Build partnerships between parents and teachers/schools. We all know the parents that insist on being partners! They become head of the PTA, etc. But just because we don't see parents in school doesn't mean that they don't care. They might be working, etc. Public schools need to be explicit about what we expect of parents. Teachers need to build partnerships--that first call home shouldn't be about something bad. The one good thing about NCLB is that it demands evidence of learning of ALL students.

What works: Extended time and opportunity to work harder, longer, and under conditions that offer possibility of success.
What doesn't work: Grouping kids together in a remedial class with a weak teacher.

Reading and writing needs to be across the curriculum, regardless of the subject being taught. We need to rethink remediation. We must teach the way students learn rather than expecting them to learn the way we teach (differentiated instruction). The easiest way to teach is the hardest way to learn - in other words, cemetery teaching--lining them up in rows and lecturing.

What are effective teaching strategies?

  • Active learning - interactive classroom
  • Constructivist
  • Inquiry-based
  • Simulations
  • Socratic Seminars
  • Project-based learning
  • Experiential learning
  • Student leadership in the classroom
  • Public presentation of student work
  • Know how to relate to kids - notice that most students really like their coaches, music teachers, drama teachers. Why?? Because when you focus on performance you cultivate stronger relationships with students.
(My thoughts: educational technology helps facilitate many of those strategies.)

Teachers need to talk to each other and not work in isolation. Teaching and covering the curriculum is not the same as having conversations with your colleagues about what is working and what is not working.

At this point, Pedro ran out of time, which was most unfortunate! I could have listened for another hour. Lots to think about here and reflect on our own practices.

Creepy Treehouses and Other Thoughts From Great Minds

David Warlick, who skyped in to talk to my grad students at a blogging workshop, talked about the notion of "creepy treehouses" -- a phrase coined by Chris Lott (see Ruminate) and then discussed more in Jared Stein's blog, Flexknowlogy. From Jared's post:
In the field of educational technology a creepy treehouse is an institutionally controlled technology/tool that emulates or mimics pre-existing technologies or tools that may already be in use by the learners, or by learners’ peer groups. Though such systems may be seen as innovative or problem-solving to the institution, they may repulse some users who see them as infringement on the sanctity of their peer groups, or as having the potential for institutional violations of their privacy, liberty, ownership, or creativity. Some users may simply object to the influence of the institution.

I’ve been observing this phenomena increasingly, as instructors push down hot Web 2.0 technologies, while students push back with vocal objections or passive resistance. I call this the creepy treehouse effect.

More directly, any move to integrate or aggregate new institutional tools or systems with pre-existing tools or systems already embraced by the community may be seen as creepy treehouse, in as much as it may be construed as institutional infringement upon the social or professional community of it’s participants.

Being that I teach at the elementary level, I am not seeing the creepy treehouse effect. Actually, I am seeing the 'wow' effect when I make it possible for my students to create and learn from personal learning networks as they explore and navigate the web 2.0 environments that I have provided for them (i.e., wikis, blogs, skype). However, I do see that creepy treehouse effect happening in a different way in my own home.

At our staff development, Will Richardson mentioned that 75% of kids have MySpace or Facebook sites. He polled our audience - less than 10% of our district's teachers had one. OK, so this made me think I should start a Facebook site. Well, hello! I have two college-age students who absolutely forbid me to get into Facebook! In fact, I believe the exact phrase they used was, "it would be creepy." I would be intruding -- their friends, searching for them, would find me - and that did not fly with my kids. By the way, please read Will's article, Digital Footprints, in Educational Leadership, on this subject. Here's an excerpt:

It's a consequence of the new Web 2.0 world that these digital footprints—the online portfolios of who we are, what we do, and by association, what we know—are becoming increasingly woven into the fabric of almost every aspect of our lives. In all likelihood, you, your school, your teachers, or your students are already being Googled on a regular basis, with information surfacing from news articles, blog posts, YouTube videos, Flickr photos, and Facebook groups. Some of it may be good, some may be bad, and most is beyond your control. Your personal footprint—and to some extent your school's—is most likely being written without you, thanks to the billions of us worldwide who now have our own printing presses and can publish what we want when we want to.

On the surface, that's an unsettling thought—but it doesn't have to be. In fact, if we are willing to embrace the moment rather than recoil from it, we may find opportunities to empower students to learn deeply and continually in ways that we could scarcely have imagined just a decade ago.

David asked us to think about the creepy treehouse effect when
we create group learning environments using nings, for example, at the high school and college level. Are we in danger of creating creepy treehouses that our students will reject? Or are we taking advantage of a great collaborative tool? My feeling is that in a world of hyperconnectedness, we can extend time and opportunity for students to work harder and longer, to work collaboratively, and to actively learn in an interactive environment. I think that students will get over the creepiness; it's just that they got there first and we are catching up.

Will's point was that in schools we try to filter out things like Facebook, IM-ing, texting, under the guise of keeping them safe. As I mentioned in my previous post, he said that kids are learning social networking from each other, without guidance about the implications of posting personal info in a world that is becoming increasingly transparent. Therefore, educators can't pretend that this stuff doesn't exits. Personally, I don't pretend that it doesn't exist; I am working hard at teaching my students the 'rules of the road' in the web world. I think I am lucky that I get them at an early age, where, hopefully, I will leave a little voice in their minds that helps them make wise decisions when they move on to the middle and high schools.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Will Richardson @Herricks School District

Blogging live from our professional development day, so pardon the typos. Will Richardson is keynoting here. for our Superintendent's Conference Day. We are embarking on a year of technology in our district. Christine Southard is showing me Coveritlive, so, hopefully you will see that at the bottom of this post.

Will says that our classrooms look very different from what our world looks like right now. Kids and technology -- pointing to 25 Days to Make a Difference - a young girl who is using a blog, working her community. Laura, the 11-year-old, writes what her readers want to know about. So what is Laura learning? That she can engage with the world -- irony is, her blog is blocked at her school.

Students are hyper-connected. Their network is in the palm of their hand - text messaging. Our kids are starting to explore these networking technologies in interesting ways. They are taking advantage of this shift that is occurring on the web - 200,000 YouTube videos are uploaded everyday. 1.8 million blogposts, over 1 million flickr photos uploaded everyday.

He is referring to a 'tectonic shift' - one of those moments in history that we will look back at and say, "oh, my goodness, look at what happened" the invention of the printing press. The ramifications are tremendous, see Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky. Schools are preparing students for a concrete world, rather than the world that will be. We don't even know what the top ten jobs will be in the coming years.

The easy ability to form groups is one of the main advantages of the technology we have. People who are passionate about something can easily get together. We can form groups around the things we believe in. This is a different model of politics, business and needs to be for education. Media is shifting - citizen journalists - CNN will buy your media. Online versions of news media is encourages you to interact.

New toy: Kindle- Amazon's wireless reading device. By the way, I believe that is on Oprah's Favorite Things list. Businesses are not about products any longer, they are about the conversations about their products. This is a huge shift. So, news, government, business is changing, reacting to these shifts. But EDUCATION is not shifting. We have to speed up. Upward to 80% of students have a Facebook or MySpace site. Gives an example of a student who died, and over 400 comments about grieving were posted on Facebook immediately. We block these things. We need to know about these things, but we filter and block these things because we are fearful. Most students know how to get around these things and can hack into them, anyway. We can't filter out the world to our kids; it is a very challenging moment in education. What do we spend our technology money on? What's here today is obselete tomorrow.

Will doesn't believe in the digital native/immigrant theory. The natives still need our help in using technology well. Learning is changing - with online environments and on the web. Will's blog only addresses how the technologies are changing teaching and learning. The comments to his blog posts reveal and teach a lot. Every person that comes to his blog is potentially a teacher. So different than students who have to come to your classroom. People come to his blog because they WANT to be there. This is about networks, that we can create networks around ideas and connections. Kids have already figured this out. FanFiction - just illustrates what kids are able to do if they are passionate about it. Reality is, administrators and principals will google prospective teachers.

Kids are learning Myspace and Facebook from each other. We need to be the ones to prepare them for their future- a more transparent world, expectation that when they get googled, good stuff will come up. We can't pretend this doesn't exist. We need to teach this in age-appropriate ways. This is the way the world operates now; it has to be taught even at the earliest ages. (OK, this made me feel good, because I am teaching information literacy, web evaluation, and media literacy to my elementary students.)

Students, through blogging, can learn they have a global voice while being guided by a teacher who is teaching them information literacy. Why aren't we teaching kids how to use iPhone in schools to access information? What is the potential for this device? Content is no longer scarce, we teach state capitols for the test - the way it was done years ago when access to information was limited. In a world where content is everywhere, we need to teach kids to find, vet and edit content; form groups with others who are passionate; and learn on their own. Content is not static any longer. Wikipedia is the most important site on the web right now...represents the collaborative construction of truth; negotiate and collaborate around the creation of content. Sarah Palin entry in Wikipedia was most updated entry. If we are not teaching Wikipedia, we are not teaching editable media. We can't teach reading and writing in the same context as we used to. We need to connect our students to the smartest people in the world - to larger, richer experiences -- and we now have the capabilities to do this. Our kids can do real work for a real audience, even in first grade - look at Radio Willoweb.

Challenge: Teachers have to realize that this is about us...getting our brains around the idea that the world is changing. The tools may change, but what won't go away is our ability to connect with others around the world any time we want to, about the things we are passionate about.