Thursday, July 12, 2007

Life-Long Learning: No longer a choice

As I look around at the Web 2.0 and School 2.0 discussions occurring all over the globe I keep coming back to a phrase I hear myself utter more and more: Being a life-long learner is no longer a lifestyle choice, it's a necessity. We know that we are preparing students for a world we cannot imagine. But, there is one thing we know, they will have to keep learning new concepts, ideas and strategies their entire lives.

So, what about us? As teachers, it is easy and natural to slip into the easy chair of expertise knowing that we know our topic inside and out. I always say the class that probably served me better than any methods class was the university math class in which I "hit the wall". Math had always been easy for me; it came very naturally - until my 2nd year at the University of Illinois. I earned the lowest grade I had ever earned...since Kindergarten. I just didn't get it. Remembering how I felt in that class went a long way in having compassion and patience for my students who just didn't get it.

In order to remember that feeling, I contend that every teacher should learn something new at least every two years. And I mean something REALLY new...and out of their comfort zone. Whether it be Italian, sewing, golf or the new grade book program makes no difference. I am convinced teachers will be as well served by remembering that "I don't get it" feeling as any other professional development they participate in.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Why I do it...

I had the wonderful experience yesterday of remembering exactly why I like my job. I'm a "Technology Trainer" (though I'd love to change that title to something along the lines of "Instructional Technology Specialist" or some other such high-falootin' name). In the summer, days can get long as I write and read and plan. Don't get me wrong...I enjoy that part, too. But I miss the regular interaction with people I have during the school year.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of facilitating two workshops with 9 teachers who gave their time in the summer to learn something new that will hopefully have a significant impact on their classrooms. And, I remembered...THIS is what I love doing - teaching, facilitating, interacting , brainstorming and being surrounded by people who are great at what they do and only trying to get better. Thanks, GBS teachers, for the inspiration!!

Monday, July 2, 2007

NECC2007 Session 11: From Hand It In to Publish It: Re-Envisioning our Classrooms

Notes on From Hand It In to Publish It: Re-Envisioning our Classrooms

Presenter: Will Richardson, Connective Learning Group

This session reminded me of why I enjoy reading and listening to Will Richardson so much. He really challenges the audience. I didn't take too many notes as most of it is in the wiki he created for the session. A few notable points:

  • Today's students are hyperconnected
  • Today's students are hypertransparent
  • They are extremely collaborative
  • The world is no longer saying "do your own work" but "do work with others" (are schools??)
  • Students need to see people who are modeling learning
  • (This is something I've been saying for awhile now) LIFELONG LEARNING IS NO LONGER A CHOICE!!
  • change in information - e.g. all of MIT's course content is online, for free, for anyone at

I have to include these favorites from the session wiki. Richardson was visibly taken aback by the spontaneous applause for number 5:

So what are the challenges, and how do we overcome them? What are the "Yeah,

  1. "We don't have the technology." Talk about and model the uses of these
    technologies in your own practice as much as you can. Start a conversation about
    the ways in which you can bring free and open hardware and software to your
  2. "My supervisor (principal, superintendent, etc.) won't let me do this." Be a
    beacon for these changes in your own practice, ask for small opportunities to
  3. "My parents don't want their kids 'out there.'" Teach them why it's
    important for their students to be using these tools, that they are using them
    already, that they are not going away, and that they need to understand how to use them safely, effectively and ethically.
  4. "I have to make sure my kids do well on the test." Make the case that this
    is not either/or, that the ends can be met through these means and at the same time, the "standards" can be met.
  5. "I don't have the time." At the end of the day, as an educator, you don't
    have much choice. You need to make the time, You need to understand these
    changes for yourselves.
  6. "I'm scared." You should be. On some level we all are.

I can't say I've always agreed with Will Richardson but I have a lot of respect for what he says and does... and there is a LOT of good stuff in here. It was a great way to end the conference!

NECC 2007: 5th year - New Experience

This was a very different NECC conference for me. I'm usually very focused on sessions and the exhibit hall. The people with whom I attend the conference and I get together and talk about our sessions. This year it didn't exactly happen that way. While I did not stop by the Blogger Cafe as so many of my colleagues did, I still reaped the rewards of the new age of conference and informal learning. Ryan Bretag, educational technologist extraordinaire, introduced several of us to people whose posts we've read and whom we'd heard of but never met - virtually or face to face. Being immersed all day and throughout the evening with educational technologists from around the globe was exhausting and fascinating. Thanks to all who shared their ideas and experiences with us over a meal Pittypat's Porch: Julie (I'll probably never go rafting again!), Vicki, Brian (who has my new favorite blog name), Vinnie, Terry, Peggy and John!

And, here's what got to me - the passion I saw in so many people. And not just passion for technology. These are not just gadget-heads and techno-geeks (though some of them are). These are educators who care deeply about teaching, learning and the future of young people in this country and around the world. The time and energy so many folks pour into learning new things so they can serve their students better is astounding. Jeff Utecht, for one, seems to be a non-stop learning machine!

Not only did the learning in Atlanta start before NECC started with Edubloggercon but it lasted long after, too. After several days of being immersed in discussions about educational technology, were we done? No! The conversations continued at the Atlanta airport and on board flights, as well. A small group of us (David Knudson, Ryan Bretag, Dave Jakes) gathered in an airport watering hole and people dropped in and out (as some of us had longer waits than others). Sorry I don't recall everyone's names but it was a pleasure meeting Brian Grenier and Tim Lauer among others in the airport version of NECC!

Thank you, everyone, for your dedication, generous spirits and willingness to share!

NECC2007 Session 8: Contemporary Literacy in the New Information Landscape

Notes on Contemporary Literacy in the New Information Landscape

Presenter: David Warlick, The Landmark Project

Lots to think about...Warlick has been writing quite a bit about the changing nature of information. This was interesting and here are a few points:

On reading:

  • FIND IT: in the digital network landscape
  • DECODE IT: regardless of the format
  • EVALUATE IT: determine its value
  • ORGANIZE IT: create personal digital libraries

Reading is now "exposing"
Arithmetic is now "employing"
Writing is "expressing"

Stop teaching to ASSUME authority; instead teach students to PROVE authority

On Wikipedia vs. traditional sources:

  • Who's more reliable - the source that warns you that it might not be true or the one who is protecting its reputation?

Stop integrating technology - integrate LITERACY

Know 2 things:

  • We're preparing students for an unpredictable future
  • Nature of information has changed

We need to teach and learn LITERACY

NECC2007 Session 7: New Tools, New Schools: Starting the Conversation about Web 2.0

Notes on New Tools, New Schools: Starting the Conversation about Web 2.0

Presenters: Gwen Solomon, with Timothy Magner, Will Richardson, Lynne Schrum and David Warlick

This was more of an audience participation session than I thought it would be. With the names I saw on the presenter list I thought it would be interesting to hear them speak on Web 2.0 in the classroom and do a little in person compare/contrast of some of their ideas. It's always interesting to hear what "regular people" like me have to say; I was just expecting something different.

  • Richardson: We still hear too many "yeah, but's"
  • Warlick: need to USE Web 2.0 tools in the conversation; not just talk about them
  • Schumann: need to parter with Higher Ed and teacher prep
  • Magner: Everyone went to Industrial Age schools but are teaching and learning in the Information Age; School 2.0
  • Student introduced the audience to a learning networking site

Lot's of agreement that something needs to be done; lot's of agreement that we don't exactly know what to do.

NECC07 Session 6: Staggeringly Good Things Integrating Media and Google Earth

Notes on Staggeringly Good Things Integrating Media and Google Earth

Presenter: Hall Davidson, Discovery

  • With Google Earth Pro you can capture your trip and make a movie so it doesn't have to operate "live" all the time
  • Jason Burg again mentioned for GoogleLit Trips
  • for sounds to embed
  • Can add a Flickr layer for images
  • You can paste a web cam address in a box and see a web cam from a site while following a trip/location

NECC07 Session 5: The Longest Mile: From Media Resources to Successful Lesson Plans

Notes on The Longest Mile: From Media Resources to Successful Lesson Plans

Presenter: Lynell Burmark, VisionShift International

Lynell Burmark always has interesting statistics and thoughts to share about Visual Literacy. (The Visual Literacy book is also available as an ebook now.) I've heard many of the resources and stats before but here are some interesting resources, etc.:
  • The most effective PowerPoint slide is one with image only IF there is a voice over (speaks to dual-coding research by Allan Paivio)
  • Using illustrated materials, retention and recall increase 42% and transfer 89%
  • Start your class with a picture...perfect "anticipatory set"
  • Free high-res stock photography at
  • More image sites available on handout "Web Resrouces for Images" at
  • Jerome Burg did "Google Lit Trips" using literature and Google maps
  • What percent of the Internet is educationally relevant? 6%

NECC07 Session 4: Five Obstacles to Information Fluency (and How to Remove Them)

Notes on Five Obstacles to Information Fluency (and How to Remove Them)

Presenters: Carl Heine, Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy with Dennis O'Connor

21st Century Information Fluency Project - IMSA

  • Used to be called "5 things digital natives cannot do"
  • 1/3 of students do things effectively
  • What do they need to do?
  1. What? how do I translate a question into a query?
  2. Where? Choose the best database in which to look
  3. How? Recognizing information that's relevant, finding better keywords
  4. How good? Verifying the credibility of the information
  5. Ethical? Follow guidelines of fair use? How do I cite so that I don't plagiarize?
  • Google results only so 85 pages, you'll never see ALL the results
  • Presenters gave examples of very interesting Internet Search Challenges
  • Tools and challenges and more details available at

NECC2007 Session 3: A Reflective Look at Online Professional Development

Notes on A Reflective Look at Online Professional Development

Presenters: Bill Thomas, Educational Technology Cooperative, Southern Regional Educational Board with Michael Murray and Jo Williamson

NECC2007 Session 2: Standards for Us! Building Technology Facilitators and Leaders

Notes on Standards for Us! Building Technology Facilitators and Leaders

Presenters: Jo Williamson, Kennesaw State University with Traci Redish

There ARE standards for us! They aren't published like NETS-S, NETS-T, and NETS-A and seem to focus very much on the preparation for technology facilitators and leaders but they do exist. As the presenters stated, having standards for what we do adds a certain level of professionalism and expectations for our jobs. Technology leadership can no longer be the role of the big-hearted teacher who likes computers and wants to help his or her colleagues. We need to be able to accomplish great things because great things are expected of us. These standards are one way to help us choose and keep better technology leaders.

Though these presenters were simply sharing some information about existing standards, this was one of the more impactful sessions for me. I hope I can successfully impact the leadership in my school district when I return.

You can see the standards for Technology Facilitators and Leaders at:

NECC2007: Assessing Students' and Teachers' Technology Skills: NETS as Benchmarks

Notes on Assessing Students' and Teachers' Technology Skills: NETS as Benchmarks

Presenter: Mila Fuller, ISTE with Mary Ann Wolf

My primary takeaway from this session was PBS Teacherline. Teachers can take courses about not just tools but utilizing technology in the curriculum. I'd like to explore this more and see if it might be appropriate for members of our Tech Mentor team.

Also, we learned that the state of Virginia requires an instructional technology resource person for every 1000 students!! Holy smokes...that's fantastic! Bravo, Virginia!

This session was in a strange time slot and I had to leave early to attend my next session. See more at Ryan Bretag's post!

NECC07 Session 1: Learning for Leaders 2.0: Development of Self and Team

Notes on Learning for Leaders 2.0: Development of Self and Team

Presenters: Dr. Gordan Dahlby and Dr. Larry Anderson

I left another session to come to this leadership session so I arrived late. The main concept I took home was a Top 9 list of tech leadership statements from Google (some of these might have been abridged in my notetaking:

  1. Ideas can come from anywhere (Everyone is expected to contribute!)
  2. Share everything you can (Information is power)
  3. "You're brilliant, we're hiring." (Work with a lot of smart people)
  4. A license to pursue dreams
  5. Innovation, not instant perfection
  6. Data is apolitical
  7. Creativity loves constraint
  8. Users, not money (If you build it they will come)
  9. Don't kill projects, morph them (What was the kernel of value in something that didn't work?)

Larry Anderson: "All leaders are learners"

NECC07 Session 1: Refreshed NETS-S Release!

Notes on Refreshed NETS-S Release!

Presenters: Lynn Nolan, ISTE with Don Knezek

  • ISTE has released a new set of Technology Standards for Students (NETS - S)
  • Won't actually be published until September
  • #1 change since original is "globalization"6 New Standards are:

  1. Creativity and Innovation
  2. Communication and Collaboration
  3. Research and Information Fluency
  4. Critical Thinking, Problem-Solving, and Decision Making
  5. Digital Citenzenship
  6. Technology Operations and Concepts