Tuesday, February 26, 2008

EDUCON 2.0 was INDEED a GREAT thing to Witness! (Even remotely)

Generation YES Blog

“I’m the luckiest teacher in Philadelphia”

Posted: 24 Feb 2008 10:30 PM CST

SLA Teachers Rock!Last month I attended Educon 2.0 in Philadelphia, an “unconference” that grew out of a grass roots movement by many educators who blog and work with Web 2.0 tools. In my opinion, it was a spectacular success, not just because 250 educators showed up on a wintery weekend in Philadelphia, most on their own dime, but because of the showcase it provided for the Science Leadership Academy - especially the teachers and students.

While it was terrific to meet the people behind the avatars and screen names, it was even more impressive to get a chance to see what a well-designed, well-executed progressive school looks like up close.

It looks like teachers.

Sure, I could go on and on about how the principal, Chris Lehmann, has shaped this school based on an “ethic of care” — meaning you teach kids before you teach subjects. The idea is so simple it’s almost startling. Brilliant leaders excel at making the simple, powerful truths concrete. Of course, caring about kids is not a secret, and Chris would be the first to admit that he stands on the shoulders of giants as he guides this school.

And the kids, of course, the kids were fabulous. Smart, friendly, look-you-in-the-eye teens who got up early on a weekend morning to make this event work. And not just help, but participate. SLA studentThese teens waded into discussions and spoke their minds. They facilitated discussions of diverse educational issues, sharing their opinions and experiences with people they’d never met before. It’s obvious these young adults are being listened to and know they can share their voice.

But when I get discouraged about the future of this thing we call school, and whether it can make systemic changes needed to survive and serve our society well, I’m going to have a new vision to call on. And it will be these SLA teachers who painted this picture for me more clearly than ever.

In one session in particular, four SLA teachers presented their experience of their first year. Learning to Teach: First Year Teaching in a Progressive School - SLA teachersJillian Gierke, Melissa Yarborough, Matt Kay, and Kenneth Rochester. They discussed what they learned, what they tried, what worked and what didn’t. It was a fabulous session. There is a video and handouts online, but there would be no way to capture the energy of the room as we moved to various centers, each run by one teacher who shared their classroom experiences with us. We tried our hand at designing a lesson using the Understanding by Design method, and found that 1) it was hard fun and 2) different groups came up with some really interesting yet completely different approaches.

SLA sessionOne teacher shared the lesson he learned over the year - “less is more,” he quietly said. And you could see the conviction in his eyes that this wasn’t the third bullet on a list of rules he’d been handed. He’d lived it and learned it. Another teacher shared how her ongoing discussions with other faculty shaped her classroom style, and how she planned to continue this as new faculty joined the SLA.

But finally, one teacher wrapped it up for me, “I’m the luckiest teacher in Philadelphia,” she said with a smile. She looked around at the chaos of voices, papers, computers, backpacks and jackets littering the room and continued, “I can’t small group discussionimagine being anywhere else.” The ethic of care at this school obviously includes the teachers, and that makes all the difference.

The truth is, great leaders have to do more than lead, they have to transfer their leadership abilities to everyone in their sphere of influence. And everyone has to accept that gift. Kids can, and will do it easily, given encouragement and consistent support. Adults are harder. Their habits are set, their expectations are lower, and their life lessons ring in their ears, drowning out the voice of hope. But it is possible.

Sometimes, when I visit a great school, I wish I was a student there. At SLA, I wished I was a teacher.


In the 21st Century GREEN begets GREEN

Find more videos like this on The Global Cooling Collective

Students 2.0 Bust-Out!


Last week sometime (I don’t keep track of days), I video-Skyped with the Korean Project Global Cooling club. PGC is the brain child of Clay Burell, with the aid of Bill Farren (who made the Did You Ever Wonder video). Their goal, in the words of Christopher Watson (the teacher helping coordinate PGC Hawaii), is to mobilize a global network of students to report on the efforts for sustainability in their communities, and also to connect them for further work together. The idea for the concert is to bring attention to the website and all the work and resources that will be posted there. We’ll be having a Hawaii-based concert for the cause in April. I was amazed at how easy it was to connect with people half-way around the world. True, their time zone maybe be a day and a half ahead of me, but that doesn’t mean I can’t come to their Project Global Cooling meetings.

What I really hope this connection between people all over the world evolves into is a place where teachers won’t have to do the connecting for the students. When we talk about a sustainable future, we don’t just mean environmentally. Places like Nervousness.org (an art project forum) are self-sustaining home bases where projects are formed between like-minded artists. There is no third party that sets them up, nor are there painfully difficult organizational problems to deal with. The artists do the art, exchange addresses, send the art, and then one person puts it all together. I see no reason why there can’t be somewhere for students to gather, talk, and create with their contemporaries (sans teacher).

We’ve all talked about how it’s time to stop underestimating kids, how it’s time to give us a voice. Out on the blogosphere front, things are definitely improving. But I look at things like Twitter (where the student population would be considered “endangered” at best), and, like Sean, I wonder why students haven’t all taken to the web. The answer is simple: where would they go? There is no single place for global student collaboration.

That’s why I created two places that I think will help students to self-connect.

The first place is a Twitter account called YouthNet. This Twitter account is a tool for students to find other students on Twitter. They can also use it to introduce themselves to the student network. For example, this would be my tweet: “@YouthNet I’m Lindsea, 16 years old, Hawaii. Interested in art, writing, photography, music, sustainability, film. skype=sonicyouthgurl”. In these 140 characters or less, I’m able to introduce myself, say where I’m from, and mention the areas in which I’m interested in starting projects. YouthNet would follow only students, so actually finding other students on Twitter wouldn’t be difficult. Student Twitterers are then able to advertise their projects (school-related or not) to other students.

The second place is a Wikispace wiki. The wiki is similar to the Twitter account in that it is a tool for starting projects and forming connections with similarly passioned people. There’s a page called World Connection where people list their name, blog address, Skype screen name, Twitter account, e-mail address, and interests. This is the starting point for networking. Then there is the “Talk” page, which basically serves as a place for discussion (obviously), and a very chillaxed forum for either casual or serious conversation. If the students choose, they can use Talk as the starting place for their projects. For brainstorming, collaborating, and swapping ideas, this is the place.

In the video chat I had with PGC in Korea, one of Clay’s students, Soojin, gives the example of a World Geography project. Let’s see how this project would work using YouthNet tools: So person X is assigned a World Geography project of her choosing. She decides to do it on exploring the anthropology of young people in different countries. Using YouthNet, she would first post the thesis of her project on the Talk page. Interested parties would then reply with their own input. She could also look through the World Connection page and contact the students interested in writing. She’d send out a mass email to all students interested, telling them in more detail what the parameters of the project are and the deadline. The students would write about their lives in the various countries all over the world, send her a couple pictures, and then person X would write a summary, and then self-publish the original stories and pictures on lulu.com.

This place that I’m creating is for students, first and foremost. It is platform for self-directed collaboration with fellow students all over the world, and it is the epitome of unschooliness and passion-based learning. The best part about this is that once it’s created and all the details are worked out, the project will be sustainable. That is, once it’s up and running, there will be no central leader. The students would have complete control. My youthful idealism has complete faith in my fellow students’ ability to lead themselves with world consciousness and integrity. I know that we’re capable of utilizing something like this to take the technological emphasis out of Internet collaboration, and use these tools only as a medium to crystallize all of our amazing potential.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Working on the Bust-Out!

Students 2.0

Amateur Education

Posted: 22 Feb 2008 10:12 PM CST

Locking doors

Public School, Rural America; 12:30 pm

One by one, we file past the teacher-turned-prison-guard. As each of us passed, she engages us in a confirmation ritual. “Work?” “Check.” “Book?” “Check.” That is the last word uttered for one and a half hours. For this period, we must sit silently with heads in books and work, where our mouths are conveniently positioned to be incapable of questioning. We cannot leave—even to seek the help of a teacher. In the only time during the day when most students actually work, we are treated like convicts. We must work (not learn) in the most efficient way possible. We are widgets in the machine of school. We are unwillingly being conscripted into a hostile intervention.

Interventions also happen behind other closed doors—in the justice system:

Intervention: Programs or services that are intended to disrupt the delinquency process and prevent a youth from penetrating further into the juvenile justice system. ~Kentucky Juvenile Justice Advisory Board

For me, this represents the epitome of what it is wrong in public school education—learning is seen as a laborious activity which students must literally be locked into doing. When one intervenes in something, one alters the direction it is heading in. Therefore, the assumption when students are put into intervention is that their learning direction must be altered. This would be fine (many of my peers do need to have intervention in their life/learning direction), except the course is required. No matter the direction of your learning or how well you are doing, you are forced into a silent study period. See where I am going with this? Before I even start school, I am scheduled for an intervention in my learning. The equivalent would be signing up your baby girl for drug rehab 16 years in advance.

Rows of chairs

Step back and consider the way education is approached in the majority of classrooms: as a dreaded task. Complicated assessment patterns are devised to be carrots for students to do their work. Meanwhile, sticks of punishment are given to those who do not do their job. Forced study halls are created in order to ensure we all keep our noses in books, where our voices are conveniently stifled. Of course, this is all done under the principal that students need to be forced to learn.

Wait. There is something wrong with the picture here. Frankly, I think schools are becoming far too business-like. Many of my peers often think of school as unpaid work. Of course, professionalism is continually emphasized as the highest principle for which students must strive. Schools even use the same reward/punishment system as the workplace: good grades = good job = $$$ and failing school = unemployment ≠ $$$. I think this is the core of what is wrong with schools: all students are expected to be professional students. That is, it is expected that we will only learn if we are forced to do so either because we desire the reward (grades) or fear the punishment (failing). In fact, this is setting up students to hate learning.

That might be a dangerous accusation, but I think it is an ultimately true one. After all, students are treated as if they already do hate learning. Grades, forced study times, detentions, and graduation requirements are all safeguards built to force students into learning. My philosophy is that if you treat a problem, there will soon be a problem; this is a self-fulfilling prophecy. By treating students as if we hate and will avoid learning at all costs, we will hate and avoid learning at all costs.

Naturally, the alternative is to encourage amateur learning: learning which is done for the love of it rather than for some distant paycheck. The argument against this is that students will not learn the skills they need to be successful citizens. I vastly disagree for the simple reason that every young child wants to grow up to be a successful citizen. Nobody is born hating learning—they grow to hate it through successively being treated as if they should hate it. No child is born thinking I am bad at math—they think that after being told it many times (in different words). Think of it like this: there is only so much education which can be packed into 12 years of school. What if instead of trying to build students the perfect toolbox, schools taught students to make their own tools? If students are never taught to hate/fear learning, they will not shy away from learning opportunities. The teachers and resources are available for life-long, anytime learning; students must simply have their original love of learning preserved.


Imagine: Peter is a student in a self-directed learning environment. In the primary grades, he takes a wide mix of classes, primarily due to peer pressure and recommendations from friends/family. In these classes, he learns the basics: reading, mathematics fundamentals, grammar, and how to research. As he moves up in the grades, he narrows his focus upon writing, eventually phasing out mathematics classes. Throughout the process, no class or work is forced upon him: he is given the options and selects the choices for himself. Consequently, since learning is never treated as a hated activity, he never learns to hate learning but instead preserves the innate love of it. Down the line, Peter has written a best-selling novel and is trying to invest the money he earned. As any intelligent person would, he is trying to figure out the best option from the choices banks have presented him with. To be clear, Peter never learned about exponential equations or compound interest in school. However, because he still loves to learn he simply taps into Google and finds the resources necessary for him to evaluate the choices. Due to Peter being an amateur learner, he actively seeks out opportunities to learn, even though nobody is forcing him to.

The rational for not encouraging self directed learning is that simply packing students with as much knowledge possible (no matter the cost) is most efficient. However, the problem arises with the information that students do not get into their memory: since most of them will end up fearing/despising learning they will not add anything to it after school. Meanwhile, students who pursue learning on their own terms may well know less information on their exit from formal schooling. However, that information is not static: they are readily adding to it through additional learning. The traditional model has been to treat students like hard drives: packing them with 12 TB of knowledge before all cables are cut. I’d rather get out of school with only 1 GB of knowledge and a connection to the internet&mdashl;at least then I can continually add to that store. Schools must make a choice: do they want to try to stuff as much learning as possible down students’ throats or do they want to give students a hunger for learning?

I don’t want to be a professional student; I want to be an amateur learner.

  1. Photo by Still Burning on Flickr
  2. Photo by smallestbones on Flickr
  3. Photo by Marcus Vegas on Flickr

Friday, February 22, 2008

No Boundaries Digital Learning

No Limits

By Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach
February 15, 2008
URL: http://www.techlearning.com/showArticle.php?articleID=196604995

from Technology & Learning

Digital technologies have opened up unimagined environments for teachers and students. We take a look at best practices representing systemic change.

boy on computer

Studies show that students using new media are more engaged in the classroom.

The speedy evolution of technology over the past 30 years has often outpaced our ability to use it to transform teaching and learning in real and meaningful ways. Much of that time we just tried to keep up, with new technologies often simply bolted onto traditional curriculum practices. However, today, with three decades of digital experience under our belt, the time is ripe to begin instituting true change.

George Hall Elementary

Inner-city George Hall Elementary, in Mobile, Alabama, is one of the state's 40 schools participating in the Alabama Best Practices Center's 21st Century Learning Project. The project helps teachers gain the skills needed to prepare students for a world dominated by digital technologies.

At George Hall, where almost 100 percent of students qualify for free lunch, Principal Terri Tomlinson estimates that less than 15 percent have high-speed Internet access at home. "If our kids are going to learn these 21st-century skills, they are going to need to get it here in our building," says Tomlinson.

While many educators still see technology and the Internet as just ways to obtain or manage information, Tomlinson sees it as a lot more. "It's about whole new ways to work and think and learn, to conduct your business and your life," says Tomlinson. She knows that the first responsibility of teachers at George Hall is to ensure children have the basic math and literacy skills they need to become self-learners. But like many educators involved in remaking struggling high-needs schools into high-performing learning communities, she and her faculty also want their kids to have the same chance to compete in an innovation-based economy as children from the most privileged public schools in Alabama have.

With the right support and leadership, Tomlinson says, teachers can have the best of both worlds: they can build strong literacy skills while using technology to push students into higher levels of learning. For example, George Hall's many field trips not only expose children (many of whom have never ventured beyond their neighborhood) to the larger world, but also are carefully integrated into the reading and writing curriculum. After each field trip, students create Webcasts documenting what they have seen and learned during their travels. "That's where these 21st-century tools can help us with our basic teaching and learning mission here at George Hall," Tomlinson says. "The children are actually talking about where they've been and what they've learned, using new vocabulary in authentic contexts." She continues, "Our kids are doing podcasting, blogging, reporting, and narrating. I think what we're finding out is that if you expose them to it, they are much more ready to do these things than we think."

The New Digital Divide

While traditional access and availability issues remain at the heart of creating equity, some experts say an emergent type of social divide is surfacing. Howard Rheingold, in his recent book Smart Mobs, asserts that "a new kind of digital divide exists, one that 10 years from now will separate those who know how to use new media to band together online from those who don't."

Creating ongoing Internet collaboration projects between classrooms is one way to address this new equity issue. Clarence Fisher, a middle school teacher at Joseph H. Kerr School in rural Snow Lake, Manitoba, Canada, has teamed with Barbara Barreda, an administrator at the independent St. Elisabeth School, in the suburbs of Los Angeles, to create the ThinWalls Classroom project, which is based on connectedness, networking, and learning beyond the classroom walls.

Through his blog "Remote Access," Fisher launched the call for "a classroom interested in beginning a year-long collaboration toward becoming truly globalized." His criteria for partnership included access at school to wikis, blogs, ThinkFree, YackPack, and Moodle, as well as to VOIP tools such as Skype to exchange videos, photos, and more.

The next steps for the ThinWalls Classroom project will include validating the communication channels for safety and privacy, but Fisher and Barreda are predicting an explosion of communication between the two classes. According to Fisher, "It will not be on 'official' channels and much of it will be 'under our radar' and on their own time. But this will change the relationships and deepen them between our classes. And more important, it changes our role as teachers and leaders of student learning."

Fisher and Barreda are being open-minded in terms of the expected outcomes from this project, "Most of the goals of the ThinWalls Classroom do not revolve around learning specific content. Instead, they circle around ideas of international collaboration and communication. While this collaboration is certainly grounded in the content we are required by our jurisdictions to work with, we are using these ideas as basics only, wanting to move far beyond them. We want our students to learn to manage their own networks, and begin to understand the power of connectivity."

A New Kind of Student

Studies show that by their senior year, barely one-fourth of today's students agree that school is meaningful or their courses are interesting—and less than half believe what they learn in school will have any bearing on their success in life. However, evidence also shows that by engaging students through participatory media, we can turn these statistics around.

Inspired by the recent K12Online Conference, Marsha Ratzel, a 6th-grade math and science teacher at suburban Leawood Middle School in Kansas's Blue Valley School District, began to consider how she might give the new student-centered strategies a try. In one project, she helped her students brainstorm all sorts of questions around weathering and erosion, and then allowed them to research the answers independently, using new tools. Ratzel recalls, "We used Flickr to find evidence of erosion, Google Maps to plot out tours of places you'd find mass movement, erosion, glacial action, or water erosion, and Photo Story to publish an online magazine about their questions and findings." After days of discussion, sharing, and peer feedback, Ratzel began to notice a new voice emerging from her students: instead of just being on task, they were enthralled.

Ratzel describes it in this way:

"They didn't just read about alluvial fans, they actually 'visited' them using Google Maps. They knew what plucking looked like because of some unbelievable licensed pictures from Flickr. One student in particular created time-intensive animations to demonstrate his personal learning process.

"Days later, when we started our Comparing Soils labs, students demanded that I give them back the digital cameras. They wanted to do Photo Story lab reports instead of what they described as 'your boring ones.' They wanted their audience to see all the amazing differences and similarities between our soil samples garnered from the network connections students had across the country."

A New Kind of Teacher

What then is the teacher's role in a world where students have instant access to information and no longer have to rely solely upon a teacher to read and judge their scholarship, ideas, or opinions?

Darren Kuropatwa, a high school mathematics teacher who blogs at "A Difference," argues that while 21st-century teachers may no longer serve as dispensers of information and ideas, they will continue to provide the most essential service of professional educators: creating learning opportunities that help students develop the skills and motivation that result in success throughout life.

Kuropatwa's AP Math classes are taught in a hybrid format, with both face-to-face and online components. A class blog supports learning by giving students a voice and an audience, and compiled posts become a student-authored textbook for the course. Additional motivation comes from the opportunity for outstanding posters to be inducted into The Scribe Post Hall of Fame wiki.

Connecting Learning to Social Change

Another important shift in teaching and learning in the 21st century is finding ways of using the new participatory media to teach students about citizenship. Brian Crosby, a blogger at "Learning is Messy," and elementary teacher at Agnes Risley Elementary School in Sparks, Nevada, is using many Web 2.0 tools such as Skype, Flickr, blogs, and wikis to infuse character education into his classroom. "Many of my students do not have consistent access to 20th-century tools much less 21st-century tools," he says.

In a recent presentation, Crosby tells of how the new communication tools have enabled his elementary students to use their creativity and voice to send a message of hope to the rest of the world. "Digital video is a powerful, transformational tool. When students participate in video projects, they practice all their academic skills in a productive, real-world context." Recently, after viewing a student-created clip on bullying and conflict resolution, the local PBS station contacted Crosby to commission his students to do another piece on race and diversity issues. In addition to being featured on the Apple Web site, his students' digital media creations have won many awards.

The Digital Classroom

If we want to remain relevant in the lives of students, then we must use strategies and materials—such as global networking—that fit the learning styles of the digital native. Classrooms in the 21st century need to be collaborative spaces where student-centered knowledge development and risk taking are accepted as the norm and where an ecology of learning develops and thrives.

Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach speaks on leadership and virtual community building.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

BLC 07

NSF ITEST STEM GRANT (Conference 2008)

Monday, February 18, 2008

TAKE ONE ASPRIN and CALL me in the Morning!


Big high schools hinder learning, some teachers say

Granholm proposal would cut enrollments to 400

February 18, 2008



Dozens of high schools -- including 43 in metro Detroit -- could be chopped into pieces in coming years as a movement to break their big populations into smaller chunks gains steam in Michigan.

It's a practice already seen from Huron Valley Schools in Oakland County to Chippewa Valley Schools in Macomb County, where school districts are finding ways to turn large, impersonal high schools into smaller communities.

And now Gov. Jennifer Granholm wants the Legislature to endorse a plan she announced last month to create the 21st Century Schools Fund, which would allow schools that enroll more than 800 students and fail to meet goals of the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law for two years or more to create small high schools of 400 students.

But are small schools the answer? Research has been mixed on an increasingly popular way to achieve the small-school effect -- by creating schools within schools -- with many findings showing that simply going smaller is not a panacea.

Yet John Telford, a teacher and curriculum leader at Finney High School in Detroit Public Schools, says he believes it can save urban schools.

"Is this the way to go? There's no question. This is the answer," Telford said.

But he doesn't have to look far to find dissent. Dominique Harris, a Finney junior, is unconvinced. Though Finney would be eligible for the money, she doesn't like the idea of breaking up her school's population of nearly 1,000 students.

"I don't think they should do that. It's not going to change anything. It's just going to make a whole bunch of little schools," with the same problems as the big schools, Dominique said.

And just last year, University of Michigan education professor Valerie E. Lee coauthored a book that tells a cautionary tale about the method of breaking large high schools into schools-within-schools.

"People are grasping at straws," said Lee, who also is a faculty associate with U-M's Survey Research Center. "Schools within schools is seen as the new magic bullet that's going to save large urban high schools. Maybe so. But not in the way that most people are going to do it."

Teaching is the focus

Many school districts in metro Detroit already have invested time and money into creating smaller, more personal high school environments.

Advocates say smaller schools allow students to have better relationships with their teachers, staff to have more support, administrators to have autonomy and the focus to be on discipline and teaching that is relevant to what will matter in the real world.

Southfield Public Schools is opening a new small high school next fall that will focus on math, science, technology and engineering. The district already has five academies at its two high schools -- each with separate themes such as arts and communications, medicine and natural sciences, and engineering and manufacturing -- in an effort to not only expose students to careers but to create smaller learning environments.

Southfield High enrolls 1,400 students, but it doesn't feel that way to Malcolm Hayes, a senior. He's enrolled in the engineering academy, and though he takes core classes such as language arts and math with students from across the school, the rest are with his peers in the academy.

"We share a lot in common," said Malcolm, 17, of Southfield. "We're able to connect more than with students I have in my English classes. We share interests."

At Lakeland High School in White Lake Township, the district created ninth-grade teams several years ago, in which students are divided into groups of about 90 students and paired with three teachers who teach core classes such as math, language arts and science within a three-hour block.

Shannon Schwarb, a Lakeland math teacher, likes sharing the same group of students with her colleagues. If she notices a student struggling, she can talk to her teammates to see if they're noticing the same difficulties.

And with high school graduation standards getting tougher, students need to have better relationships with their teachers, she said.

"That's why the teams are important, because it gives them that extra support. It makes them feel more comfortable."

Lakeland also has divided its school into two sections, with freshmen and sophomores occupying one side of the building and the upper-class students occupying the other side, another effort at creating smaller environments for kids.

The efforts seem to be paying off. Lakeland Principal Bob Behnke said the school's ACT composite scores have increased faster than the state and national averages.

Although Lakeland's ninth-grade teams share a building with older students, Chippewa Valley Schools is taking a different approach. Two ninth-grade academies are opening in September, one adjacent to Dakota High School and the other next to Chippewa Valley High.

Both academies are expected to enroll 600 students, reducing the population at Dakota from 2,500 and Chippewa Valley from 2,200, said Ed Skiba, executive director of secondary education.

"We're trying to create a separate culture that tells kids that we're all in this together," Skiba said.

Making school more personal

The small-school method is working for Jules Cooch of Pinckney, an 18-year-old who attends a small school of 330 students.

"It's one-on-one; it's really personalized. Someone is actually saying to you ... that you matter," said Cooch, a senior at the Washtenaw Technical Middle College, where students can graduate with not only a high school diploma, but a technical certificate or an associate's degree, in four years.

Programs like the one Cooch attends were touted by Granholm as examples of small schools that work.

Fifteen high schools in Detroit and about 28 other schools in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties would be eligible for the funds Granholm wants to make available, though the priority would be on the nearly two dozen schools with serious academic troubles.

Those pushing for the small schools say they'll keep kids in school and produce graduates who are prepared for postsecondary education, whether that be a 4-year university, community college or trade program.

"If you can make school more personal and have kids have ongoing relationships with teachers in smaller settings, you really tap into their motivation, their willingness to stay in school," said State Superintendent Mike Flanagan.

Contact LORI HIGGINS at 248-351-3694 or lhiggins@freepress.com.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Attention ALL Personel: This is NOT a Drill!

The New York Times

February 14, 2008

Dumb and Dumber: Are Americans Hostile to Knowledge?

A popular video on YouTube shows Kellie Pickler, the adorable platinum blonde from “American Idol,” appearing on the Fox game show “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” during celebrity week. Selected from a third-grade geography curriculum, the $25,000 question asked: “Budapest is the capital of what European country?”

Ms. Pickler threw up both hands and looked at the large blackboard perplexed. “I thought Europe was a country,” she said. Playing it safe, she chose to copy the answer offered by one of the genuine fifth graders: Hungary. “Hungry?” she said, eyes widening in disbelief. “That’s a country? I’ve heard of Turkey. But Hungry? I’ve never heard of it.”

Such, uh, lack of global awareness is the kind of thing that drives Susan Jacoby, author of “The Age of American Unreason,” up a wall. Ms. Jacoby is one of a number of writers with new books that bemoan the state of American culture.

Joining the circle of curmudgeons this season is Eric G. Wilson, whose “Against Happiness” warns that the “American obsession with happiness” could “well lead to a sudden extinction of the creative impulse, that could result in an extermination as horrible as those foreshadowed by global warming and environmental crisis and nuclear proliferation.”

Then there is Lee Siegel’s “Against the Machine: Being Human in the Age of the Electronic Mob,” which inveighs against the Internet for encouraging solipsism, debased discourse and arrant commercialization. Mr. Siegel, one might remember, was suspended by The New Republic for using a fake online persona in order to trash critics of his blog (“you couldn’t tie Siegel’s shoelaces”) and to praise himself (“brave, brilliant”).

Ms. Jacoby, whose book came out on Tuesday, doesn’t zero in on a particular technology or emotion, but rather on what she feels is a generalized hostility to knowledge. She is well aware that some may tag her a crank. “I expect to get bashed,” said Ms. Jacoby, 62, either as an older person who upbraids the young for plummeting standards and values, or as a secularist whose defense of scientific rationalism is a way to disparage religion.

Ms. Jacoby, however, is quick to point out that her indictment is not limited by age or ideology. Yes, she knows that eggheads, nerds, bookworms, longhairs, pointy heads, highbrows and know-it-alls have been mocked and dismissed throughout American history. And liberal and conservative writers, from Richard Hofstadter to Allan Bloom, have regularly analyzed the phenomenon and offered advice.

T. J. Jackson Lears, a cultural historian who edits the quarterly review Raritan, said, “The tendency to this sort of lamentation is perennial in American history,” adding that in periods “when political problems seem intractable or somehow frozen, there is a turn toward cultural issues.”

But now, Ms. Jacoby said, something different is happening: anti-intellectualism (the attitude that “too much learning can be a dangerous thing”) and anti-rationalism (“the idea that there is no such things as evidence or fact, just opinion”) have fused in a particularly insidious way.

Not only are citizens ignorant about essential scientific, civic and cultural knowledge, she said, but they also don’t think it matters.

She pointed to a 2006 National Geographic poll that found nearly half of 18- to 24-year-olds don’t think it is necessary or important to know where countries in the news are located. So more than three years into the Iraq war, only 23 percent of those with some college could locate Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Israel on a map.

Ms. Jacoby, dressed in a bright red turtleneck with lipstick to match, was sitting, appropriately, in that temple of knowledge, the New York Public Library’s majestic Beaux Arts building on Fifth Avenue. The author of seven other books, she was a fellow at the library when she first got the idea for this book back in 2001, on 9/11.

Walking home to her Upper East Side apartment, she said, overwhelmed and confused, she stopped at a bar. As she sipped her bloody mary, she quietly listened to two men, neatly dressed in suits. For a second she thought they were going to compare that day’s horrifying attack to the Japanese bombing in 1941 that blew America into World War II:

“This is just like Pearl Harbor,” one of the men said.

The other asked, “What is Pearl Harbor?”

“That was when the Vietnamese dropped bombs in a harbor, and it started the Vietnam War,” the first man replied.

At that moment, Ms. Jacoby said, “I decided to write this book.”

Ms. Jacoby doesn’t expect to revolutionize the nation’s educational system or cause millions of Americans to switch off “American Idol” and pick up Schopenhauer. But she would like to start a conversation about why the United States seems particularly vulnerable to such a virulent strain of anti-intellectualism. After all, “the empire of infotainment doesn’t stop at the American border,” she said, yet students in many other countries consistently outperform American students in science, math and reading on comparative tests.

In part, she lays the blame on a failing educational system. “Although people are going to school more and more years, there’s no evidence that they know more,” she said.

Ms. Jacoby also blames religious fundamentalism’s antipathy toward science, as she grieves over surveys that show that nearly two-thirds of Americans want creationism to be taught along with evolution.

Ms. Jacoby doesn’t leave liberals out of her analysis, mentioning the New Left’s attacks on universities in the 1960s, the decision to consign African-American and women’s studies to an “academic ghetto” instead of integrating them into the core curriculum, ponderous musings on rock music and pop culture courses on everything from sitcoms to fat that trivialize college-level learning.

Avoiding the liberal or conservative label in this particular argument, she prefers to call herself a “cultural conservationist.”

For all her scholarly interests, though, Ms. Jacoby said she recognized just how hard it is to tune out the 24/7 entertainment culture. A few years ago she participated in the annual campaign to turn off the television for a week. “I was stunned at how difficult it was for me,” she said.

The surprise at her own dependency on electronic and visual media made her realize just how pervasive the culture of distraction is and how susceptible everyone is — even curmudgeons.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Summary: WEB 2.0 February 2008

« My Big Twelve: Dreams and Goals for 2008 | Main | Change »

Local, Global, or Glocal?

I've been struggling a lot with the concept of classrooms and schools collaborating and connecting globally. In fact, the question "is networking and collaborating outside of school central or supplementary" was raised at Educon and I was instantly immersed into an internal battle over my position. What I've realized is that I am not really debating whether or not we should immerse our classrooms globally; instead, I'm struggling with the starting point for establishing a global classroom and school.

When in the classroom, my focus was on leveraging the power of a global audience. We opened our wired discussions to other schools. We blogged to the outside world. We leapt at every opportunity to connect and collaborate with the outside world. Sadly, I look back and realize that the primary reason it couldn't sustain itself was the lack of a school climate and culture that was supportive of the systemic acceptance of school as a learning community.

Today, my interest is in creating sustained, systemic changes where every classroom is empowered for the 21st Century, not the proliferation of isolated classrooms and small pockets of change that are based more on the individual teacher than the culture as a whole. While I understand the excitement about collaborating and networking outside of the school as well as the need, I find it just as important if not even more important to discuss what is happening within the culture of the school itself: is it a collaborative environment? is it a learning environment? is networking occurring? is literacy a focus in all classrooms?

Thus, my answer to the question about networking and collaborating outside of school is that we need to "Think Globally, Act Locally". In other words, my focus is on being Glocal: 'starting from within the local community and spreading globally (Hicks).

Leverage Local Connections

At the classroom level, a great starting point is bridging gaps between your own classrooms. If you teach three sections of the same subject such as Chemistry, are your classes collaborating and connecting or are these functioning as isolated sections? By creating an environment where all your sections are collaborating, communicating, and connecting, the collective knowledge is widening and students are beginning to experience a community of practice within the school.

From there, this type of learning environment can expand to others teaching the same subject (or grade level for k-8) so that it is now about a collective approach to American Literature not just each American Literature teacher functioning in isolation. Through discussion forums, wikis, webcasts, and live broadcasts, the framework for collaboration becomes relatively simple yet the importance of creating such an environment is a critical step for learning for students and adults: "educators who are building a professional learning community recognize that they must work together to achieve their collective purpose of learning for all. Therefore, they create structures to promote a collaborative culture" (Dufour, 2005, p.36).

It doesn't stop there. As the students and teachers become immersed in a learning community, the skills in collaborating, communicating, and connecting continue to grow so that the community, network, and audience can expand its boundaries across departments, sister schools, and onward to a truly global classroom. The key, however, is that the environment is allowed to grow naturally and the foundation of such a learning community that much stronger where students are able to scaffold their skills and teachers are able to best understand how to leverage participatory media and the global audience:

There are those kids -- just like there are those teachers -- who will take to the idea of writing to an unknown audience and seeing what happens. But hoping and wishing for the serendipitous moment makes for bad teacher planning, and over the long haul I think it won't get the vast majority of our students publishing their voices to the world. If we want to see kids embrace the power of communication technologies like blogs and wikis and podcasts, we need to be good teacher-planners. We need to give them reasons to publish. We need to help them see their audience... whether it is using a blogging platform for and art classroom exhibition that other students will critique or bringing in a group of math majors from a college to work with our math students, kids need to understand why they should share their work with the world, and then -- once they do -- we allow for all the serendipitous moments that so many of us in the edu-blog world have benefited from to occur (Lehmann)

An Example Worth Discussing

Blogging is a perfect example of what I'm discussing here. Right now, there are a lot of isolated blogs within schools where students are blogging for a specific course and that is it. When the student leaves that teacher, the blogging essentially ends unless the student chooses to continue writing. In theory, the blog has a global audience but even in cases where this is true, the length of time students have with the blog is too short in most cases. While these educators and students are undoubtedly doing wonderful things, the question of sustainability and systemic change raise questions about the long term impact of such endeavors.

What if students were given a learning space as soon as they entered the school, including a blog space, and this was used
across courses and grade levels? In other words, the student owns their space and grows with them -- a sort of blogging across the curriculum. By creating such a space, the process could be scaffolded where early grades are learning what it means to engage in transformative blogging and beginning the process of creating their network locally while thinking globally. Here is an rough example of what this might look like within a high school:

9th Grade: all students receive their learning space; students begin blogging in a central space with a focus on learning the process with an audience of their peers
10th Grade: students begin to expand their network to the entire school; the concept of connecting and communicating with a wider audience begins to form as students continue to build their skills.
11th Grade: The network continues to expand and reach out to a wider audience in an organic way. Students understand what transformative blogging represents and what it means to write for a local and global audience
12th Grade: The hope is that students have reached a point where blogging is a natural part of their personal and professional learning environment. Students are writing in a natural and fluid environment that will sustain itself long past formal schooling

While very rough and by no means perfect, this is the type of environment I believe allows for the perfect blend of local and global so that 21st Century skills are not only taught but learned and that a learning community is built from within in order "to promote the qualities and dispositions of insatiable, lifelong learning in every member of the school community -- young people and adults alike -- so that when the school experience concludes, learning will not" (Barth).

The Ripple Effect

Many of us are excited about Global possibilities but sometimes at the expense of local. As Christian Long recently stated in his blog, "perhaps whether there is something to be said for NOT going global just because we can, especially if it serves our kids better in the process. Maybe we need to talk about concentric circles of local scale first. And global pitches second." If the belief is that all classrooms should be collaborating and connecting with the outside world, we need to develop learning community within our own walls before moving outside to a global community. Systemic change is difficult when it come from a few exceptional teachers -- pebbles tossed into the lake. It comes from the entire school functioning as a learning community and creating a powerful ripple effect that rocks the whole lake and branches the community out organically.

So, is it global, local, or glocal? I'm thinking Glocal*!


Barth, R. (2007). Turning Book Burners into Lifelong Learners. Published in Educational Leadership 2nd Edition. Wiley & Sons.
Boyd, D. (2005). Why Web 2.0 Matters: Preparing for Glocalization.
Dufour, R. (2005). What is a Professional Learning Community? National Educational Services.
Hicks, D. (n/a). Towards a glocal language curriculum: 2000 and beyond. Cambridge University Press.
Lehmann, C. (2007). When to Publish.
Long, C. (2007). The Global vs. Local Connection.

*Glocal has a number of definitions and uses that I'm obviously not employing here. Basically, my point is that we need to think both globally and locally, so the term, in this context, is just the merging of the two terms.


Ryan, interesting ideas. You caused some writing on my end...



Your points are quite interesting and offer some insights into what I'm pondering.

I don't see this as a walled garden issue but as more of helping students grow their network starting from within and giving each student a learning space that isn't confined to a specific course or a specific teacher. This focuses beyond individual classes and moves it towards a systemic use of participatory media and literacy focus.

The last thing I want is a walled garden. However, I think there is a starting point where connecting locally allows us to branch off. Perhaps audience as peers makes it seem as though I'm advocating for this. However, I'm advocating for students to start local and expand.

How many students are blogging right now without a global audience? It is great to speak about the Internet in an authentic state, but there are a number of classrooms blogging and an audience is never established. By the time one begins to form, the course is over and the blog ends because it is course or grade based NOT student based.

I want all students to have the opportunity to engage globally for a sustained period. Right now, I see a few exceptional teachers doing the best they can within a limited scope: grade-level or subject-matter.

Thanks for the thoughts that I'm sure I'll continue to ponder.

I too am struggling at the moment. I am wondering if we are shooting ourselves in the foot because we have a great number of educators testing theory without sound research.

I shouldn't even try to relate this because I just picked up the book, but your line of thinking is similar to Neil Postman's Technopoly. I stumbled upon this book through Wes Fryers NCLB post and then, in an odd occurrence, discovered the book at eye level while crossing through Borders to get to the coffee shop.

Postman provides great insight to the all or nothing line of thinking that technophiles support. He cautions that when the new is blindly looked upon as just better we fail to look at it with both eyes.

I am with you. If we just unleash students on this stuff because it is the next big thing are we losing something that will not be revealed for a decade or so?

Postman begins the book with a story from Plato's Phaedrus. There are two thoughts in this story that are eating away at me. 1. The inventor/discoverer is never the best judge of good or harm. 2. (speaking of writing) Pupils will receive a quantity of information without proper instruction, and in consequence be considered very knowledgeable when they are for the most part quiet ignorant. (access without understanding)

Are we building knowledge or breeding contempt for it? (Google will make my choices for me using an algorithm)

Sorry I did this here, but I am having one of those moments. Am I a leader or a follower? And for that matter who are leaders and does the fact they blogged first make them the authority of the future of education?

Some teachers are working hard to make sure HOTS are part of the experience, but what about the vast majority?

I need to regroup.

Your point is well made and I agree... maybe I am missing somethings as I read your message and Mighuels response.

1. Doesn't everything go back to the school's and teacher's purpose, goals, and objectives. Ask why you want to have your learners collaborate and you will find where you need to start!

2. Can't you list a dozen school activities that lack congruence across grade levels. We ask our k - 12 teachers to meet once or twice a year to align curriculum?

3. Once you can define what the purpose and ultimate goal of our public education system is, than we can finally begin to address your point more fully. Are we trying to get them into college? Are we focused on a basic set of knowledge standards? Are we preparing them for the 21st century? Are we trying to help them become life long learners? Are we trying to get them to be active citizens of our country? Are we focused on behavior? Is it to learn how to pass the test?

Interesting quick reads I found in 2 minute Google Search:


Hey Scott:

Thanks for the comment. Since you've laid out your thoughts by points, I'll respond in a similar fashion :-)

1. Of course, it does come back to and should come back to what we are attempting to accomplish. Obviously, there is extensive research in the area of collaboration, so I'll simplify this a bit that it is considered a best practice.

Because of that, I want collaboration occurring with great breadth and depth allowing for those global connections to foster growth on a local level. As Reich and Solomon say, "you must make sure they are tapped into the world and the local community, so that the changes and differences that result from being connected to people all over the globe are integrated into what you do at local and global levels."

2. I sure can but there is two issues here: 1. cultures of isolation must be removed in schools 2. I see this as more than just an activity. In fact, this is what I want to move away from: today, we are doing a collaborative activity. I don't want collaboration, connecting, and networking to be an anomaly but what we do day in and day out as learners.

With today's tools, this should be easier to accomplish for teachers, departments, and schools. Again, the research is vast in the area of professional learning communities yet many are still not embracing this concept or have embraced it on a surface level.

In some sense, I would say because of your comments I feel it is even more important to build this foundation locally if we want to see all learners experiencing a glocal (boy, I'm butchering this term) learning environment.

3. Not to heavy of a question, eh :-)

Seriously though, since most mission statements around the country encompass pieces of each of your questions, I'm sure we could package it up in a nice, cohesive statement.

But, like intended vs. taught curriculum, I wonder if the intended mission of many schools is truly lived out in each and every decision made within schools.

Wow! Thanks for the comment Ken. I must admit that I've never read anything by Postman but you have me intrigued.

Based upon the questions and thoughts in your comment, I know I've missed something well worth reading, so I'll hold a bit on my thoughts until I've read this piece.

Thanks for getting the wheels spinning!!

I was just having a conversation with Scott Meech and a few other educators about the value of Ed.Voicethread in comparison to having a teacher use a pro voicethread acct with students using sub-identities.

Ed.Voicethread is a great solution for students to carry a digital suitcase and create a digital learning trail over time. It is a bummer that it doesn't allow authentic comments from people who will never be able to have an Ed.Voicethread account, but I'll take the upside.

We have the same thing with blogs. Some teachers have their kids use blogger for a history blog, some english teachers then have the students use blogger to create a separate english blog. We need one platform in our school so students can blog across different classes and across many years.

Definitely a timely post as I've been thinking about these same challenges, Ryan.


I love your concept: "Golcal"

Yes, I believe it is very important to "Think Globally, and Act Locally". I can see how new technology, such as blogging can help. This new culture has the opportunity to build bridges across the globe and allow communication between cultures like never before. Making connections at the local level with the school community is a start in bringing us all closer at the global level. This is as you said a "collaborative culture" and educators need to help generate more interest in using new technologies to enhance the learning environment.

Monday, February 11, 2008

A Vision of K-12 Students Today

In case ANYONE forgot WHAT it was WE are ALL ABOUT!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Machine is Us/ing Us (Final Version)


Saturday, February 02, 2008

Frozen Grand Central


Friday, February 01, 2008

Collaborative Online Teacher Network

Microsoft Launches Collaborative Online Teacher Network
Microsoft project gives educators a worldwide collaboration forum
By Jennifer Orlando, Converge Magazine

Jan. 31, 2008Microsoft Corp.'s Innovative Teachers Network (ITN), a new online forum, promotes the exchange of best practices and methods on how to effectively incorporate technology into the classroom. Teachers across the country and around the globe will have an opportunity to communicate and collaborate with some of the world's best educators.

Sudafed PE commercial: Swelling Head (2008)

OR: Contact 21st Century Digital Learning Environments!