Tuesday, April 28, 2009

An Interview with Travis Lund

Today I had the chance to speak with Utah teacher Travis Lund who had some very interesting insights to share on the use of technology, including cell phones, within the teaching and learning processes.

In this first part of the interview, Travis and I spoke about his curriculum and his school's efforts to engage students in meaningful ways.

In the second part of this interview, Travis and I speak about his successful efforts to incorporate technology, in a meaningful way, into his curriculum.

A Post at AEP

The Association of Educational Publishers has posted a blog article that I posted. The posting is in response to the question: How difficult is it to use Web 2.0 social networking tools to connect with and grow our client base? I'm part of their Stay at Night Series. Basically, members and others involved in the educational publishing vertical were asked to submit questions that were keeping them up at night, so that a group of selected "experts" could respond to them.

Take a look at the posting and consider responding to it.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Great Gatsby and Google Earth

Yesterday I finally had some time to continue working with my new curricular unit which is a unit that challenges students to consider the relationship between F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby and the Roaring Twenties, using Google Earth. I'm really excited about this unit because in addition to using Google Earth, students also have a chance to use Google 3D Warehouse and Google Sketch-up.

One of the most important themes that runs through this book is the distinction between "new money" and "old money" between West Egg and East Egg. So, using evidence from the book students find/sketch the houses of both Gatsby and the Buchanans. They then have a chance to consider how the general architecture of the houses might represent different sources of money.

Another focus of the unit is on the Black Sox scandal. Certainly gambling plays a role in the book, as does this scandal itself. So, I'm hoping that sports-minded students will find this an interesting connection.

I'd love to hear any thoughts as to how you might use Google Earth to take engage students in thinking and learning about Great Gatsby.

The unit should be complete by the end of the month. If you are interested in a demo copy let me know via my email on the side of this page.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Shopping Mall Safety

I'm trying to recall if my middle and high school teachers ever discussed safety in shopping malls with my classes, when I was a student. To the best of my memory we never had these discussions. Certainly, as a young child I learned about "stranger dangers" and "red lights" in school. But, by the time I reached the upper grades, I guess my teachers assumed that my classmates and I understood safety. Should my teachers have been teaching this safety throughout my education, or was it more appropriate to focus on disciplinary learning within the disciplines of school?

What's my point?

I'm considering whether or not middle and high school teachers should continue to spend precious academic time focusing on technological safety?

I know a lot of people will disagree with me. But, perhaps I would argue that in an ideal school setting, middle and high school teachers should not spend time focusing on technological safety. Instead, students should enter these grades recognizing the dangers of being "online" and knowing how to avoid these dangers. Elementary school students should have the opportunity to meet with community members who teach about the importance of online safety. It's as important for young children to learn about online safety today as it is for them to learn to look both ways before crossing the street and not to talk to strangers.

While I might suggest that in an ideal educational system, middle and high school teachers need not spend time teaching important safety concepts that students should have learned in earlier grades, parents clearly continue to have a responsibility to monitor their children's behavior throughout their teenage years. Parents have a responsibility to continue to discuss important safety issues

By the way, I recognize that we don't live in an ideal world and our educational system is real not ideal.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Google News Timeline

Techcrunch is running an article entitled, "Google News Timeline Offers a New Way to Search the Past." It states, "Today, Google Labs launched a new product called Google News Timeline, which lays out the top stories from Google News in columns for each day. You can scroll down to see more stories or, of course, can search for specific topics or keywords. (It also launched similar image search)

You can actually search for any topic heading and see information as it was chronologically developed. You can insert specific dates to see the information that appeared on that day. Many of the top resources on this widget come from Time Magazine, a magazine that most middle and high school students can easily read and understand.

Consider the ways in which you could use this new widget to promote high quality learning. Students will easily be able to find information to compare similar events across time, including: elections; scientific discoveries; fluctuations in economic markets; and, technological innovations. Obviously this list could go on indefinitely.

Of course, in order to use this research tool to its potential, educators will have to develop curriculum resources with effective prompts.

Stay tuned!!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Using Blogs Effectively

If I'm going to write that teachers need additional support, as I did here then it would probably make sense to offer this kind of support, to the extent that I am able.

Here's one suggestion on how a blog might be used effectively within teaching and learning. The educator, or for that matter a selected student, might post an engaging question as the actual blog post.

Lesson 1: Students could be asked to respond to the question in a three part essay. (A three part essay would start off just as a five part essay begins, with an introduction that contains three key points that could be addressed in the body of the essay. Students would then select one of these points to elaborate upon in a second paragraph. Finally, the third paragraph would resemble the concluding paragraph of a five part essay. Students would wrap up their writing by reflecting on their three points and identifying what they specifically chose to consider in this essay.)

Lesson 2: Students would be asked to respond to at least two essay posts, with a substantive challenge or meaningful question. (In order to ensure that every student receives an equal number of responses, the educator could group students for this activity.)

Lesson 3: Students would be asked to respond to the comments that were made to their comments, demonstrating critical thought and creativity.

This unit would prompt meaningful dialogue that could take place either within or beyond class time - the kind of dialogue that Web 2.0 enables.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Teachers Aren't Getting Enough Support

In 1995, David Tyack and Larry Cuban published a book entitled,
Tinkering toward Utopia: A Century of Public School Reform. In this book they argued that while numerous innovations had occurred within the American public school system during the Twentieth Century, most of these innovations had occurred around the edges. Their research findings demonstrated that few meaningful changes had occurred within core teaching and learning processes.

At the beginning of the Second Decade of the Twenty First Century, I'd suggest that numerous technological innovations have occurred that could tremendously influence the teaching and learning process, not enough attention has been paid to supporting teachers in learning how to use these technological widgets and applications. On a day to day basis, teachers don't care whether or not a school system is moving towards one to one. When it comes to their daily practice, teachers don't care about the differences between one social bookmarking service and another. Too many technological evangelists promote the importance of technology for teaching and learning without providing teachers want they need.

Teachers want specific suggestions as to how to use the widgets and applications that they have available to promote effective learning within their classrooms. Given the fact that they have between twenty five and forty students sitting in front of them, teachers aren't concerned with macro-issues. They want to know how technology can support learning of the very specific standards and objectives that they are covering.

Educational resource specialists, professional development experts, and publishing companies have the responsibility to support classroom teachers in their very real need for assistance in connecting technology to today's learning.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Pencil Lab?

How bizarre would it be if a school had a pencil lab? You know, a place where classes went to use pencils, instead of having pencils available in the classroom. What about a textbook lab? Should schools have "pencil teachers" or "textbook teachers"?

If pencil labs/teachers and textbook labs/teachers sound so ridiculous why do we still have computer labs? As the First Decade of the Twenty First Century comes to an end we've come to a point when technology (computers) should not be seen as something separate from the core curriculum. Students should not leave their core subject area class to go to another room for instruction on computer technology. Instead education in the use of computers should be integrated into core subject area learning. All teachers must possess the knowledge and expertise to help students think about using this technology in the most effective ways to master core standards and objectives.

Effective teachers must ask themselves three general questions when they develop their lessons.

1. What objectives should students master in this lesson? (This includes both knowledge and skills.)
2. What do students have to do in order to master these objectives? (Given that it is almost 2010 educators need to think in the Twenty First Century. This means that they should naturally consider the use of computers as one category of options. Of course some things would be better learned kinesthetically. Other objectives might be better learned in quiet reflection, or in group work. Remember that not all students learn in the same way!!)
3. How can I determine whether or not students have mastered these objectives. (Again the use of Twenty First Century technology can support effective evaluation.)

Just a thought!!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Pirates of Somalia

As readers know, I have begun developing core curriculum content that takes advantage of Web 2.0 resources. These types of resources have the potential to be both engaging and edifying. I'm in the process of completing my second unit on "The Great Gatsby." You'll see more information about the first unit that I developed here. Both of these units use Google Earth.

Well, when I was contemplating today's blog post, I thought about the act of Piracy off the coast of Somalia. This would make a great Google Earth lesson. Initially, I thought that I'd simply develop a Google Earth layer and link to it. But, this is an awful lot of work. So, I reckoned that I could find a Google Earth layer created by somebody else, and I did find it.

This map alone is certainly not a curricular unit. In fact, I think what separates my content from other educational resources is that we actually develop learning resources around technology. Yet, effective teachers will be able to use this map to promote high quality learning.

Friday, April 10, 2009

O'Connor Supports Gaming in Education

Former Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O'Connor appears to have it right. She said, ""You're going to have greater success if you teach it in ways that [students] like to use"...According to an eSchool News article, O'Connor commented that typical students spend as much as forty hours a week in front of a screen. Twenty First Century students know how to learn digitally. Therefore, today's teachers have a responsibility to provide their students with learning experiences that speak to their learning modalities.

According to the article, O'Connor is specifically working with developers on two video games: "In the first game, students play the director of a constitutional law firm who must decide which amendment resolves a problem posed by a client. In the other, students play a Supreme Court law clerk. They have to help Justice Irene Waters write the majority opinion on whether a school can ban students from wearing music band T-shirts."

Personally, I'd love to see how the game provides students with access to important content knowledge which they can then apply to the scenarios described above. A high quality educational game does not just allow students to play. Instead, it offers students an opportunity to learn important information and then apply the information in meaningful ways.

What games have you found to be most successful with your students? Why have you found these games to be successful?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Learning at the Passover Seder

One more post related to Passover...

Every pre-service teacher educator learns that students tend to learn in one of three different ways: auditorily, visually, and kinesthetically.

I've always been amazed at the brilliance of the rabbis who wrote the Hagaddah, the booklet that is used for the Seder, or first (and second) night Passover dinner. The learning objective for the Passover seder is to be able to demonstrate an understanding that though Jewish people, Hebrews, were slaves in Egypt, we are now free. As free people we have certain responsibilities to help those in need.

In order to ensure that their students, Jewish people in coming generations, master these learning objectives, the rabbis who wrote the hagaddah incorporated all three learning modalities into the seder. Participants have the chance to read the information in the hagaddah, which includes both visual and auditory modalities. (Auditory since much of the hagaddah is also read aloud.) Participants also see a special "Seder Plate" that includes numerous objects symbolizing aspects of the seder. Finally, participants do things to better master the objective of the evening. We eat bitter herbs to remember the bitterness of slavery. We recline when we eat to feel the luxury of freedom.

Though the hagaddah and seder were developed thousands of years ago, the rabbis who wrote it apparently understood modern learning theories.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Passover Seder

As you might know, tonight marks the beginning of the eight day Jewish holiday of Passover. Consider the meaning of freedom:

Traditionally, Jewish people remember the Exodus from Egypt during Passover. We are supposed to feel as if we ourselves were actually redeemed by God from Egyptian slavery. As such, we want to remember those individuals who continue to be enslaved, and highly disadvantaged, today. So, what does it mean to be free? (Teachers might consider asking their students this question.) Jewish tradition stresses the fact that freedom does not mean getting to do whatever you want. When people do whatever they want chaos ensues. Behavioral rules are important because they ensure civilized living. (Consider challenging students to imagine what the world would be like if people did whatever they want whenever they want.) According to Jewish tradition, the redeemed Hebrews arrived at Mt. Sinai exactly seven weeks after they were redeemed from Egypt. During this seven weeks they had the opportunity to experience the chaos of live without rules. They recognized that they needed rules. So, the question is, what does freedom mean? (I'd suggest that it means having the opportunity to reflectively consider the way that you want to live your life within the rules of society and pursuing your dreams and ambitions.) What do you think it means?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Press Release from Ocean Now

Ocean Now is a project led by Dr. Enric Sala to study and protect the last remaining places in the sea that are relatively untouched by humans. Enric wanted to design an expedition that readers all over the world - especially teachers and students - could follow every day.

We just launched a new website that is tracking Dr. Sala and a team of scientists over the next month as they explore the southern Line Islands in the South Pacific. Teachers and students can ask the crew questions, read blog posts and video uploaded from the ship, track the expedition via Google Earth, and a lot more.

Check out some of the footage they've already uploaded here:


Friday, April 3, 2009

News Story

Press Release
A Pass Educational Group

Andrew Pass, a twenty year veteran in K-12 education, has been developing his own curriculum resources for many years. He builds educational activities, focused on core subject matter, atop technological tools available in Web 2.0. Pass recently recognized that indeed we all live in one global community. After completing a unit on the Holocaust using Google Earth as a significant resource, Pass began to spread the word that the unit was available for purchase. His first order came from far away Sydney Australia. Before Pass had even sold a copy of the unit to individuals in his community, near Detroit, or his country he sold a copy to the other side of the world.

Don’t hesitate to contact Andy for more information: 248-302-1829, ap@pass-ed.com